FICTION

The Boy Who Grew a Forest: The True Story of Jadav Payeng

illus. by Kayla Harren. 32p. glossary. Sleeping Bear. Mar. 2019. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781534110243.
COPY ISBN
Gr 1–5—"In India, on a large river island, among farms and families hard at work, there lived a boy who loved trees." Prompted by the alarming death of hundreds of snakes stranded on a barren sandbar when he was just a boy, Jadav went to the elders of his village. They explained that the floodwaters cause erosion, which gradually shrinks the island, leaving animals homeless and stranded, like the snakes. The village gave young Jadav 20 bamboo saplings to plant. Not only did he plant the trees, he also devised a watering system and created richer soil, eventually planting more than 1,300 acres of trees. Soon, birds, snakes, rhinos, and elephants returned. When tigers appeared, threatening the villagers, Jadav planted more grasses to attract small animals to appease them. When elephants ventured onto village farms to eat their crops, he planted fruit trees to satisfy them. His understanding of ecology and human responsibility make him a hero. His decision to make a difference as a child will empower young readers. An author's note, glossary, and instructions on planting are included. Lush, realistic illustrations document young Jadav's sadness, fear, determination, and eventual success as readers watch the barren, disintegrating island transform into a living forest supporting all manners of life.
VERDICT An inspirational read-aloud for units on plants, the environment, or Earth Day.

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