The true story of a young boy who built a forest from the ground up in northeastern India.
Inspired by the documentary Forest Man, debut author Gholz pens the story of Jadav Payeng. The story begins with the erosive impact of seasonal floodwaters on his island home, which propels Jadav to take action. A group of elders give him 20 bamboo seedlings to plant. He plants them and waters them every day, devising various methods of irrigation, and over time, his hard work pays off and a forest grows. Animals come back, but with them come threats. However, Jadav inventively copes and continues to protect the forest. While the relative absence of the community throughout Jadav’s endeavors is somewhat startling, the story provides young children with a real-life example of the connections between man and nature. Gholz refers to Jadav throughout the book only as “the boy” or “the man,” which has a distancing effect. The depictions of Jadav himself as a child are similarly generic, whereas those of him as an adult are reasonably accurate to photographs. Moreover, facts indicate that Jadav was 16 when he started planting the trees, but the book shows him as a much younger child. The illustrations overall are detailed and engaging, however, with beautiful imagery of the islands and the forest. Backmatter provides further information, a glossary, and tips on planting a forest.
An insightful if imperfect story of environmental success. (Picture book/biography. 5-8)