About the Holiday
National Reading Month is a book-lover’s delight! With thirty-one whole days where taking extra time to read is not only allowed but encouraged can send one hurrying out to the bookstore or library to stock up! The month is only half over, so gather the kids and discover some new books to enjoy together–why not start with today’s book?!
The Boy Who Grew a Forest: The True Story of Jadav Payeng
Written by Sophia Gholz | Illustrated by Kayla Harren
On a large river island in India, there lived a boy who loved the trees that provided food and shade for the people and shelter for the many native animals. But each year, the floods of the rainy season took more and more of the land. “The boy’s precious island was shrinking—eroding away with the rushing river, leaving empty sandbars behind.” Animals’ homes were destroyed and the animals died or didn’t come back. The boy was afraid this would happen to the people of the island too.
When he took his fears to the elders of his village, they gave him twenty bamboo saplings. He rowed over to one of the sandbars and began to plant the saplings. He came back every day to water the plants and then devised an easier way to water them. Under his care, the bamboo began to grow. In time they became “a healthy thicket.” But for the bamboo to spread further, the boy knew the soil needed to be richer.
He brought in “cow dung, earthworms, termites, and angry red ants that bit him on the journey to their new home.” From other villages, he got seeds of different trees and planted those too. Over the years, a forest grew, covering acres and acres of land. Animals like rhinos, elephants, birds, and monkeys began to return. But with these animals, dangerous predators also came. The villagers were afraid. To provide food for the tigers, the boy—now a man—sowed grasses to attract rabbits, mice, deer and other prey.
To keep other animals fed, the boy planted fruit trees, and when the villagers cut down trees to build homes, the man sowed more seeds. Hunters came for the animals’ “horns and fur, but the man was there to protect.” Today, the forest is thriving and is called Molai for the man who planted and preserved it. His name is Jadav “Molai” Payeng.
More information about Jadav Payeng, an Author’s Note, and a seed-planting activity follow the text.
If anyone questions how much one person can do, Sophia Gholz puts these doubts to rest in her inspiring biography of a child who recognized a danger to the people and wildlife of his island and solved the problem for generations to come. Children will marvel at the story of Jadav Payeng’s dedication and lifelong perseverance told through Gholz’ lyrical text. As children learn about Jadav Payeng, they also discover the components of fertile soil and how a lush environment attracts the animals and other wildlife vital to a flourishing community.
Kayla Harren’s exquisite sundrenched illustrations transport readers to the Indian island where Jadav Payeng grew up and let them see the effects of eroded shorelines, stranded animals, and the overwhelming task Jadav took on. Harren’s realistic images show Jadav’s hard work and ingenuity as he cares for his first twenty plants and expand the forest little by little. With stunning texture and depth, Harren depicts the verdant foliage and diversity of wildlife Jadav recreated. The true-to-life illustrations will thrill nature and animal lovers and have them exploring each page to capture all the details.
A gorgeous and beautifully told story about the power of one, The Boy Who Grew a Forest: The True Story of Jadav Payeng will excite children to make a difference in their own way. The book is an excellent choice to add to home, classroom, and library collections for science, sustainability, and inspirational story times and discussions.
Ages 5 – 8
Sleeping Bear Press, 2019 | ISBN 978-1534110243
Discover more about Sophia Gholz and her books on her website.
To learn more about Kayla Harren, her books, and her art, visit her website.
Read an interview with Sophia and Kayla about their inspirations for this book and how it came to be!
The Boy Who Grew a Forest Giveaway
I’m excited to partner with Sleeping Bear Press in an Instagram giveaway of:
- One (1) copy of The Boy Who Grew a Forest written by Sophia Gholz | illustrated by Kayla Harren
This giveaway is open from March 15 through March 21 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.
Just do these things to enter:
- Like the Giveaway Post
- Follow Sleeping Bear Press
- Follow Celebrate Picture Books
- Bonus: Comment with your favorite kind of tree (each comment gives you one more entry!)
Giveaway open to U.S. addresses only. | Prizing provided by Sleeping Bear Press.
National Reading Month Activity
The Boy Who Grew a Forest Activity Sheets
You can be an environmental crusader in your neighborhood too! Print these activity sheets and challenge yourself with the questions. Then think about what you can do to help plants and wildlife in your neighborhood or even your own backyard!
You can find The Boy Who Grew a Forest: The True Story of Jadav Payeng at these booksellers
Picture Book Review