An excellent, child-friendly introduction to a global issue.

THE FOREST MAN

THE TRUE STORY OF JADAV PAYENG

This picture-book biography of Jadav Payeng, hailed as “the forest man of India,” details his effort to single-handedly reforest his river island home.

In the opening pages of the book, 14-year-old Payeng is distraught by the destruction that deforestation and erosion are causing in his community, an island on the mighty Brahmaputra River in northeastern India. Every day after taking care of his chores, he plants trees on a sandbar laid bare by erosion. For over 35 years he does this, planting first bamboo trees and then other species. Today, Molai Forest is a lush woodland that is no longer desolate: It is home to elephants, rhinoceroses, deer, wild boars, vultures, and tigers. Widdowson’s simple, brightly colored art unfolds as the text does, showcasing stark, eroded shorelines and stranded animals in the opening pages, then verdant coastal forests and smiling animals at the book’s close. Additional backmatter details Payeng’s continued commitment to the revitalization of this fragile ecosystem along with further biographical information, such as his receiving one of India’s highest civilian awards, the Padma Shri. This is the second such picture book about Payeng, following The Boy Who Grew a Forest, by Sophia Gholz and illustrated by Kayla Harren (2019). Payeng is a member of the Mishing, a marginalized tribal community in India; as climate change greatly affects Indigenous and vulnerable communities, this coverage is both welcome and necessary.

An excellent, child-friendly introduction to a global issue. (fast facts, glossary, further reading) (Picture book/biography. 5-8)

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4867-1816-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Flowerpot Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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Sage, soothing ideas for a busy, loud, sometimes-divisive world.

GRANDMA'S GARDENS

In an inviting picture book, Chelsea and Hillary Clinton share personal revelations on how gardening with a grandmother, a mother, and children shapes and nurtures a love and respect for nature, beauty, and a general philosophy for life.

Grandma Dorothy, the former senator, secretary of state, and presidential candidate’s mother, loved gardens, appreciating the multiple benefits they yielded for herself and her family. The Clinton women reminisce about their beloved forebear and all she taught them in a color-coded, alternating text, blue for Chelsea and green for Hillary. Via brief yet explicit remembrances, they share what they learned, observed, and most of all enjoyed in gardens with her. Each double-page spread culminates in a declarative statement set in italicized red text invoking Dorothy’s wise words. Gardens can be many things: places for celebration, discovery and learning, vehicles for teaching responsibility in creating beauty, home to wildlife large and small, a place to share stories and develop memories. Though operating from very personal experience rooted in class privilege, the mother-daughter duo mostly succeeds in imparting a universally significant message: Whether visiting a public garden or working in the backyard, generations can cultivate a lasting bond. Lemniscates uses an appropriately floral palette to evoke the gardens explored by these three white women. A Spanish edition, Los jardines de la abuela, publishes simultaneously; Teresa Mlawer’s translation is fluid and pleasing, in at least one case improving on the original.

Sage, soothing ideas for a busy, loud, sometimes-divisive world. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: March 31, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-11535-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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

MALALA'S MAGIC PENCIL

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. 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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