The Forest Keeper– The True Story of Jadav Payeng by Rina Singh, Ishita Jain (Illustrations)

Published April 18th 2023 by NorthSouth Books

About the Book: Trees don’t grow on sandbars . . . but a boy from India grew a forest.

What can one person do in the face of global environmental degradation? Indian Jadav Payeng has proven that each and every one of us can make a difference. As a boy, he began planting trees on a sandbank in the state of Assam. Nobody believed that he would succeed in doing so. But since 1979, a forest the size of Central Park has emerged, offering a home to countless animals and plants. It was not until 2007 that a photographer accidentally discovered the forest and made Payeng known to the world beyond India.

Rina Singh has sensitively retraced the story of young Jadav. In Ishita Jain’s picture book debut as illustrator, readers feel immersed in the spectacular habitat whose existence borders on a miracle come true.

5 Stars: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

The Forest Keeper is an inspiring true story of a boy who created and nurtured a forest all alone, on a sandbar in northeast India. In this area, the Brahmaputra River flows and during monsoon season, it covers the islands and sandbars, washing away the sand and depositing silt. In 1979, sixteen year old Jadav Payeng, a young tribal boy, noticed many snakes dead on the sandbars and islands after the area had been flooded. There were no trees or plants to provide cover from the sun. He approached the village elders and the forest department, but all they did was give him a bag of bamboo seedlings and tell him to “Go plant them yourself”, so he did. He started planting those seedlings on an abandoned sandbar and after thirty years, the resulting dense forest covers about 1360 acres, an area larger than the Central Park of New York. There is now a lot of wildlife living in Jadav’s forest (elephants, tigers, rhinos etc.). In 2009, a wildlife photographer posted images and suddenly everyone knew about what Jadav had done. He is now known as “The Forest Man of India.”

What an amazing and inspiring story. I read this with my 9 year old grandson and we both enjoyed learning about Jadav. This story shows how anyone can help to create a better world, help the environment and create a biome so plants and animals can flourish. It also opened our eyes to the fact that those government agencies don’t always help the way we would expect and we talked about what we could do to encourage others to do their part. With global warming and so many climate related tragedies, this book is timely and important. I would recommend this book to all schools, no matter what age as this story is simple, yet important. Every person can play a part, not matter how small. After reading this, we went out on the world wide web and found more information about Jadav Payeng and his forest that added to our knowledge.