If, in your childhood, you ever entertained reveries of growing up in the jungle, wild and free among the animals, you will want to read the true story as chronicled in the book: "Tippi: My Book of Africa."
Meet Tippi Degre. She grew up in Africa under the watchful eyes of her parents, surrounded by natives and indigenous wildlife for ten years. Within that colorful and eventful time-span, the privilege encountered situations that many of us in our lifetimes can only day dream about. In fact, her story sounds like it came straight from the pen of Rudyard Kipling or Edgar Rice Burroughs.
The daughter of French filmmakers and photographers Alain Degré and Sylvie Robert, it seems that Tippi was destined for unconventionality. A childhood in Europe would have been far different, with rigid expectations concerning conduct in comparison.
The little girl confronted face-to-face on a daily basis, tamed leopards, baboons, and her favorite---a 34-year-old elephant named Abu, whom she also called "brother."
She is seen in countless photographs from toddler-hood and up smack-dab in the center of normally dangerous wildlife, radiating a fearlessness quite becoming to her cherubic features.
Despite the grand exposure, Tippi's mother recounts only two situations in which Tippi was hurt. She assures that she was fervently watchful over her daughter's play-time:
"'I had the least fear I wouldn't have let Tippi anywhere near them. The photo with Tippi next to the young lion cub Mufasa sucking her thumb is wonderful. The year after this photo we came back and we went to see him and he was huge. Mufasa came to Tippi and he friendly brushed her with his long tail, like a cat would do, and she almost fell down. I had to take her away - I was not at ease. But she was only ever bitten once on the nose by a Meerkat, only two bites!"
"The second incident was when she met with Cindy the baboon at a water point. Cindy attacked Tippi's hair and pulled out a handful, out of jealousy.That was terribly painful! Wild animals are unpredictable. We can't be sure of their reaction as we are not of the same species, we don't know all of their behaviour codes."
Sylvie explained her daughter's social life while growing up in the African bush:
"'When we came to a village with African children, within two minutes Tippi was the clown and people found her so cute. Africans love other children - especially white children and she was so much fun with her hair and so different."
Tippi herself testified of a deep connection with her animal friends which surpassed the uniform attention. Rather, it bespoke a deep, affectionate bond:
''I speak to them with my mind, or through my eyes, my heart or my soul, and I see that they understand and answer me."
Mrs. Degre attributed her daughter's wistfulness as, in part, an inspiration behind Tippi's book, published to paperback in 2012:
"She gave her heart and thoughts away in her book. It is like Mowgli's story, but for Tippi it's true.'
Now twenty-three years old, Tippi is pursuing the academic course of her parents, studying towards a degree in cinema.