Singh, Rina

The Forest Keeper: The True Story of Jadav Payeng

(2) K-3 Illustrated by Ishita Jain. In 1979 in remote northeastern India, sixteen-year-old Jadav Payeng is troubled by the way the river "goes wild" during monsoon season: it overflows, ravages islands, and decimates wildlife. Young Jadav proposes to plant trees on sandbars and islands as a way to anchor the soil against the river's raging currents. He starts by planting bamboo seedlings, and when those thrive, he experiments with additional species of trees and plants. Thirty years later, "a forest was born," drawing birds and wildlife including tigers, rhinos, and elephants, and "guarding the island" from future destruction. The illustrations make excellent use of color: vibrant shades of green accompany the many burgeoning forest scenes, but there are also visual surprises in a red dawn sky or orange flames that erupt from a blue-black night scene. Varied page layouts aid in the progression of the action, from Payeng's painstaking efforts to sow the seeds to an individual plant's growth. An inspiring true story of an environmental activist whose important work began in his teens and spanned a lifetime. An author's note provides further information about the "Forest Man of India."


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