Review of The Forest Keeper:
 The True Story of Jadav Payeng

The True Story of Jadav PayengThe Forest Keeper: The True Story of Jadav Payeng
by Rina Singh; illus. by Ishita Jain
Primary, Intermediate    NorthSouth    40 pp.
4/23  9780735845053    $18.95

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.”

From the March/April 2023 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Julie Hakim Azzam

Calling Caldecott co-author Julie Hakim Azzam is the assistant director of the MFA program in the School of Art at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She holds a PhD in literary and cultrual studies, with a specialization in comparative contemporary postcolonial literature from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) and Southeast Asia. Her most recent work focuses on children's literature, stories about immigrants and refugees, and youth coping with disability.

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