by Rina Singh; Illustrated by Ishita Jain
North South Books. An Imprint of NordSüd Verlag AG. Switzerland. 2023.
"In the northeast of India flows a river so mighty that people who live on its many islands call it a moving ocean."
The island of Majuli is located in a remote corner of northeast India in the Brahmaputra River. Over time, the river has gouged out much of the landmass. In, The Forest Keeper, we are introduced to a tradesman from Moduli, Jadav Molai Payeng.
When Jadav was a boy of sixteen, he discovered hundreds of water snakes that had washed up on the sandbar and died under the burning hot sun. Devastated by the loss of the snakes, Jadav had the idea to plant trees on the sandbar. The elders said no trees would grow on a sandbar. The workers at the forest department were not interested in helping. But, they did give him a bag with bamboo seedlings and said, "Go plant them yourself."
And, he did.
His forest stretches now over 1,359 acres. That is larger than Central Park in New York City. According to the afterward, in 2009, a wildlife photographer accidentally stumbled upon the forest. Jadav is no longer anonymous. There have been articles written about him, and even a film honored his ingenuity. Jadav is called The Forest Man.
The narrative of this simply told informational picture book is accented with the colorful watercolor illustration by Indian artist, Ishita Jain.
Though the book lacks any listing of additional resources, it is one to inspire readers that one person can change the world.
Click here to watch a 14 minute trailer of The Forest Man documentary.