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THE BOY WHO GREW A FOREST

THE TRUE STORY OF JADAV PAYENG

An insightful if imperfect story of environmental success.

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)

Pub Date: March 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-53411-024-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Sleeping Bear Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2019

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BASKETBALL DREAMS

Blandly inspirational fare made to evoke equally shrink-wrapped responses.

An NBA star pays tribute to the influence of his grandfather.

In the same vein as his Long Shot (2009), illustrated by Frank Morrison, this latest from Paul prioritizes values and character: “My granddad Papa Chilly had dreams that came true,” he writes, “so maybe if I listen and watch him, / mine will too.” So it is that the wide-eyed Black child in the simply drawn illustrations rises early to get to the playground hoops before anyone else, watches his elder working hard and respecting others, hears him cheering along with the rest of the family from the stands during games, and recalls in a prose afterword that his grandfather wasn’t one to lecture but taught by example. Paul mentions in both the text and the backmatter that Papa Chilly was the first African American to own a service station in North Carolina (his presumed dream) but not that he was killed in a robbery, which has the effect of keeping the overall tone positive and the instructional content one-dimensional. Figures in the pictures are mostly dark-skinned. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Blandly inspirational fare made to evoke equally shrink-wrapped responses. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 10, 2023

ISBN: 978-1-250-81003-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 27, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2022

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MALALA'S MAGIC PENCIL

An inspiring introduction to the young Nobel Peace Prize winner and a useful conversation starter.

The latest of many picture books about the young heroine from Pakistan, this one is narrated by Malala herself, with a frame that is accessible to young readers.

Malala introduces her story using a television show she used to watch about a boy with a magic pencil that he used to get himself and his friends out of trouble. Readers can easily follow Malala through her own discovery of troubles in her beloved home village, such as other children not attending school and soldiers taking over the village. Watercolor-and-ink illustrations give a strong sense of setting, while gold ink designs overlay Malala’s hopes onto her often dreary reality. The story makes clear Malala’s motivations for taking up the pen to tell the world about the hardships in her village and only alludes to the attempt on her life, with a black page (“the dangerous men tried to silence me. / But they failed”) and a hospital bracelet on her wrist the only hints of the harm that came to her. Crowds with signs join her call before she is shown giving her famous speech before the United Nations. Toward the end of the book, adult readers may need to help children understand Malala’s “work,” but the message of holding fast to courage and working together is powerful and clear.

An inspiring introduction to the young Nobel Peace Prize winner and a useful conversation starter. (Picture book/memoir. 5-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 17, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-316-31957-7

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Aug. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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