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The Boy Who Grew a Forest: The True Story of Jadav Payeng

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As a boy, Jadav Payeng was distressed by the destruction deforestation and erosion was causing on his island home in India's Brahmaputra River. So he began planting trees. What began as a small thicket of bamboo, grew over the years into 1,300 acre forest filled with native plants and animals. The Boy Who Grew a Forest tells the inspiring true story of Payeng--and reminds us all of the difference a single person with a big idea can make.

32 pages, Hardcover

First published March 15, 2019

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About the author

Sophia Gholz

7 books42 followers
Sophia Gholz is an award-winning children's book author, magic seeker and avid reader. Sophia enjoys writing fiction with humor and heart. When writing nonfiction, she pulls on her love of science and her family background in ecology. When she’s not writing, you can find Sophia reading a book, visiting schools or exploring the great outdoors with her family.

Sophia’s books have received many accolades, including: NCSS Notable Social Studies Trade Book, Florida State Book Award Gold Medal, South Carolina Book Award Shortlist, Kentucky Bluegrass Book Award Shortlist, Nile Delta Book Award, Eureka! Nonfiction Honor and the Green Earth Book Honor. For more about Sophia and her books, visit her online at:

Website: www.SophiaGholz.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/sophiagholz
Instagram: https://instagram.com/sophiagholz
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCDQw...
Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/sophiagholza...


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Displaying 1 - 30 of 137 reviews
Profile Image for Gayle Krause.
Author 10 books27 followers
December 18, 2018
The Boy Who Grew a Forest is an environmental story from the past that could inspire the future. It also shows children that they aren’t too small to make a huge difference in the world they live in. Though it takes place on a small river island in India many years ago, it inspires children anywhere to take charge of their little bit of the world to make their small difference grow into a vastly important one, especially in these times when certain adults ignore the Earth’s pleas for help. Many aspects of this story are relatable to children today. Floods have ravaged certain areas of our country and Ghotz’s interpretation of Jadev’s story may inspire them to use their own ingenuity to save a small part of their own towns or cities. And Harren’s illustrations perfectly depict the softness and innocence of a child who grows into a determined man protecting his environment.
Profile Image for Elizabeth☮ .
1,531 reviews11 followers
March 28, 2019
I often read books with my daughter that introduce me to people in history that I have never come across in my adult life.

This book is about a young boy, Jadav Payeng, that lives on a small island in northern India. As a young boy, he sees how the monsoon season affects his home. He finds snakes that are left stranded on sand bars and so decides to plant some trees.

He plants bamboo saplings. That's just the beginning. As Jadav grows up, he continues to harvest the forest. What develops is a lush 1,300 acre utopia for animals. Jadav protects the area also from poachers and others infringing on the land.

This hidden treasure wasn't discovered until a group of scientists were tracking a herd of elephants and came across it.

What a great way to teach young children that they truly can impact changes in nature and the environment.
Profile Image for Lisa.
108 reviews2 followers
March 30, 2021
Ein schönes Bilderbuch über die wahre Geschichte von Jadav Payeng, der in Indien alleine einen Wald angepflanzt hat. Die Illustrationen sind wunderschön und der Themenschwerpunkt motivierend und wichtig in unserer heutigen Zeit. Nur die Übersetzung war an ein paar Stellen etwas holprig.

Kann ich zum Vorlesen für Kinder ab 3 Jahren sehr empfehlen.
Profile Image for Katy.
78 reviews2 followers
October 23, 2021
This book tells the story of Jadav Payeng and his lifelong work restoring the forest near his home. The art style mirrors the story closely with colors that match the central theme of trees and growth. As a picture book it doesn't go into substantial detail but does provide the broad strokes of the story and inspires children through the idea that one man can make a difference even if it took many years.
Profile Image for Kimberly.
3,981 reviews83 followers
October 21, 2020
Five stars for the beautiful artwork, but three for content. I feel like children will have several questions. First, there is no explanation of why Payeng was bringing dung/worms/ants/dirt, etc to his forest to "create a richer soil." As an adult I understand what he was doing, but how is a child supposed to know? And how did Payeng know this as a small boy? Second, I wanted some more factual information in the back matter. There are no photos of the real Payeng, and no resources for additional information about him. There's at least two documentaries that focus on the man, and the author must have learned about him from somewhere, so where are the sources/further reading?

The art is lovely and so is the message of the book, but as a nonfiction piece I didn't feel like it was complete.
47 reviews3 followers
April 25, 2019
This is an inspiring story of a young boy who saw a problem and took action. Throughout his life, he responds to the changing needs of the island, animals, and villagers by planting various kinds of trees and other plants. (The forest he planted is said to be more than 1,300 acres according to the biographical note at the end. ) Author Sophia Gholz tells the story exactly right, and Kayla Harren’s illustrations are gorgeous!
Profile Image for Natasha.
304 reviews13 followers
May 11, 2021
There is a great deal of awful stuff happening in the world. With all the negative information we get about how we are destroying our planet, it is really nice to pick up a book that tells an uplifting story of how a single person can make a huge difference. I think this is exactly what my tender-hearted little Moongazer needed to read.
Profile Image for Jo Oehrlein.
6,275 reviews9 followers
November 18, 2019
Inspiring story of a young boy who noticed a problem and started taking action. When there were unforeseen side effects, he helped counter them.

What he did took time. He's no longer a young boy at the end of the book. But he's made a huge difference.
Profile Image for Margaret.
2,532 reviews
May 9, 2019
It's not as if you can wave a wand and have it happen magically. It takes time. It takes patience and persistence. Your associates in this endeavor are unpredictable but you need them. You must have sun, water, wind and the lives of countless animals, tiny and large, for the fruits of your labors and others to be seen.

One man, a single soul, with intention and a goal, changed the landscape of his environment, seed by seed, plant by plant. The Boy Who Grew A Forest: The True Story of Jadav Payeng (Sleeping Bear Press, March 15, 2019) written by Sophia Gholz with illustrations by Kayla Harren portrays the efforts of this man over decades. One person can make a difference. This person made a difference.

My full recommendation: https://librariansquest.blogspot.com/...
Profile Image for Peacegal.
9,942 reviews90 followers
February 5, 2021
Wonderful, inspiring, a gem on the shelf. FOREST details the life of Jadav Payeng, a young boy who is distressed by the destruction and flooding he sees in his Indian village, and responds not just by being sad, but by getting to work planting. He doesn't rest until an entire forest has sprung up where once was just barren and eroded land!

I loved that this book demonstrated compassion for wildlife as well as people, and the stressed the fact that we all need nature to thrive. When problems arise between wildlife and the villagers, Payeng seeks humane solutions to resolve the conflict while allowing the animals to remain in their natural habitat. And there's a fantastic scene that shows Payeng halting poachers at the forest's edge, protecting the animals who live within.

FOREST will appeal to a wide audience and should find a home in both public and school libraries.
Profile Image for Sandy Brehl.
Author 8 books131 followers
December 15, 2019
The star of this story is a young boy living in India, Jadav Paying, who combined careful observation with determination to make a difference. Even though the story began more than thirty years ago, the impact of hs efforts as a boy filled the first half of the book, only later following him through his adult life.
Young readers will be intrigued or appalled that his original inspiration came from the dying snakes on a barren mid-river island. What had once been a lush habitat was a dying strip of land, rapidly sinking into the surrounding river due to seasonal flooding and lack of trees to prevent erosion.
I was moved by his childhood awareness that trees contributed value to his village: shade, food, and shelter. It was this love of trees and instinctive understanding that all living things are connected that touched his heart.
With only twenty bamboo sprouts (which can grow in the most difficult circumstances), he began planting, nuturing, hauling water and nature soil enrichment. That means manure, biting ants, and other unappealing but effective supplements to the naked earth. His never-ending commitment stretched into adulthood as he identified and adjusted along the way to provide for and protect the expanding life forms on the island.
Eventually, his accomplishments were recognized and he is an admired hero in India. Even so, he continues to monitor, protect, and improve the island as his life's work.
When it comes to activism, global warming, and other issues of interest to young readers, this is a testament to the power of one person to make a difference.
Pair this one with I Am Farmer: Growing an Environmental Movement in Cameroon (Miranda Paul and Baptiste Paul) for a powerful pair of inspiring environmental kid-activists who discovered the work of a lifetime.
5,870 reviews130 followers
September 4, 2020
The Boy Who Grew a Forest: The True Story of Jadav Payeng is a children's picture book written by Sophia Gholz and illustrated Kayla Harren. It is the true story of a young boy who built a forest from the ground up in northeastern India.

Jadav "Molai" Payeng is an environmental activist and forestry worker from Majuli, popularly known as the Forest Man of India. Over the course of several decades, he has planted and tended trees on a sandbar of the river Brahmaputra turning it into a forest reserve.

Gholz's text is rather simplistic, straightforward, and informative. The narrative provides a real-life example of the connections between humanity and nature through Jaday Payeng. Backmatter provides further information, a glossary, and tips on planting a forest. Harren's illustrations overall are detailed and engaging with beautiful imagery of the islands and the forest.

The premise of the book is rather straightforward. It begins with the erosive impact of seasonal floodwaters on Payeng island home, which propels him 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.

All in all, The Boy Who Grew a Forest: The True Story of Jadav Payeng is an insightful story of environmental success.
Profile Image for Linda .
3,704 reviews42 followers
May 2, 2019
Sophia Gholz tells that on one island home, Jadav Payeng was upset when he saw snakes who had died because their habitat was destroyed. He spoke with relatives who, according to this story, gave him a way to start, twenty bamboo shoots. He began, he devised a way to keep them watered, and they grew. That was not the end. He did not give up when more water was needed. He realized that the land needed feeding and he carried "cow dung, earthworms, termites, and angry red ants that bit him on his journey to their new home." It made a difference to nurture the land. More seeds were planted and more grew.
Over the years his few bamboo plants grew into a 1300 acre forest, an inspiring story of what one person can accomplish, one step, one seed, and later, animals, one at a time. Gorgeous paintings by Kayla Harren help tell Jadav's story, from youth to adulthood, from barren land to lush forest.
The back matter shares that it wasn't until 2008 that the forest was discovered by a group of local authorities tracking elephants. Since then, he's been recognized worldwide. Added is an author's note and directions "To Plant A Forest of Your Own."
Profile Image for Rachel Funez.
59 reviews
June 1, 2019
Debut author, Sophia Gholz, teamed up with experienced illustrator, Kayla Harren, to create this inspiring true story about the powerful impact one person can have when they pair passion with action and persistence in the face of difficulties.

Jadav Payeng’s story is truly remarkable. As a young boy, he was saddened and worried by the loss of trees and the erosion of his Indian island home. So he did something about it. Starting with just 20 bamboo saplings, Jadav grew an entire forest that became home to a biodiverse range of insects, birds, and animals.

This story is both educational and inspiring, and the illustrations are beautiful. It promotes conservation and ecology without being preachy. And it includes back matter with more information about Jadav Payeng and his forest, along with instructions for planting seeds, so children can enjoy watching their own forests grow.

*Thank you, Sleeping Bear Press, for providing me with a free PDF copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.*
Profile Image for Christina Getrost.
2,148 reviews66 followers
December 4, 2019
Nice book for budding environmentalists! A picture book biography of Jadav Payeng, of India, who saw as a boy how snakes and other wildlife were dying from flooding and other problems as the trees were overharvested and habitat was stripped away. He began by planting bamboo shoots given to him by the village elders, carefully tending them, carting water in jugs to irrigate them, and gradually bringing in seeds from plants in other places as the years went by, until he had cultivated a whole forest! He added plants that were specific to certain animals, whether it was to help elephants or to provide for the small animals that became food for tigers and therefore kept the tigers out of the village. He protected the forest from poachers, and eventually it became a nature preserve. I LOVE the art in this book! Gorgeous photo-realistic paintings.
April 28, 2021
Gholz offers a lyrical picture book with beautiful illustrations by Kayla Harren that transport us to this village in India where Jadav's island home is being destroyed by deforestation and erosion. He sets to work with what he has, not knowing if his actions will matter, but determined. His work and dedication pays off and slowly what was barren becomes a forest.

This is a story of hope and the power of believing in our capacity to create change in the world. In a time where global leaders are alerting about the effects of global warming, this book shares an important message that needs to be shared. May it be a call to action that each of us can do our bit to keep our Earth Home healthy.
Profile Image for Mary.
1,269 reviews10 followers
February 5, 2022
Jadav Payeng, from northern India, noticed the damage to his environment caused by flooding. As a child, he grieved for the creatures killed by the floods. He decided to provide a new home for the animals. He started with a few bamboo saplings planted on a sandbar. Over the next years he planted more trees, watered them, and amended the soil to help them grow. Eventually a large and productive forest was established.
This interesting story is true. It is also inspirational. The beautifully illustrated picture book is appropriate for middle to upper elementary students.
Earth Day, conservation
ELA: narrative non-fiction
Science: plant life, balance of nature, habitats, composting.
Profile Image for Joana Pastro.
Author 3 books23 followers
May 19, 2019
Sophia Gholz tells the inspiring story of Jadav Payeng. Worried about the animals that were dying around his village, he decided to take matters in his own hands and create a new home for those animals, by -like the title says - growing a forest. Everyone would benefit from reading this book. It's a reminder that seeing what's wrong with the world isn't enough, we must act and do our part. I think it's an important book for every classroom. It's message is so powerful, my 9yo used it as an example on one of her essays for school.
Kayla Harren's exuberant art is the perfect match for the author's beautiful lyrical language.
Profile Image for Katrina.
486 reviews6 followers
February 15, 2020
When Jadav Payeng was a young man, he saw the effects of deforestation first hand as animals fled, river banks eroded, and animals died. He began planting a bamboo forest in 1979. He tended to it as it grew and flourished and now has become a forest of over 1,300 acres. I am glad his story is being told, and the art is beautiful. This would pair well with stories of other climate activists like Wangari Maathai.

A fact about Payeng that was left out of the book, but a quick search will tell you, is that he is Indigenous! Such a significant thing to not even find its way into the back matter!
Profile Image for Becky B.
7,492 reviews93 followers
October 15, 2020
A picture book biography of Jadav Payeng. As a boy he saw an island on the river devastated and decided to do something about it. He started replanting the island and continued to work on restoring it over decades, until it became a huge forest and animal reserve.

What an inspirational true story. Just a couple bamboo sprouts that turned eventually into a huge forest. There's further information in the back of the book for those hungry for more details. The illustrations in this are stunningly beautiful. Highly recommended for science classes studying the environment or ecosystems, art lovers, and those looking for biographies of people from India.
Profile Image for S.K. Wenger.
Author 1 book6 followers
December 6, 2020
There is something extraordinary about a boy who grows a forest, and yet, it was a task so simply done. Day by day. Plant by plant. Visit by visit. Through patience, dedication, and persistence, a thriving ecosystem came into existence. All because a young boy decided to take action and fix something that was broken.

The Boy Who Grew a Forest is based on the efforts of Jadav Payeng. who sprouted a thriving ecosystem on the Brahmaputra River in northeastern India.

The combination of Sophia Gholz's beautiful prose and Kayla Harren's wonderful illustrations amounts to a wonderful picture book. I loved it.
Profile Image for Elaine.
Author 2 books67 followers
December 17, 2018
This is a beautiful book about Jadav “Molai” Payeng who grew up near Majuli Island located in the Brahmaputra River, in northeastern India. As a young teenager, Jadav witnessed the death of hundreds of snakes that floodwaters stranded on a barren sandbar near the
island. Heartbroken, he decided to plant trees. At first, it was difficult for a boy to do alone but with perseverance and dedication, his small collection of bamboo trees grew into a forest. Lovely illustrations tell the incredible true story of a young boy with a clear vision. Perfect for children everywhere.
Profile Image for Laura Roettiger.
Author 2 books19 followers
December 18, 2018
The Boy Who Grew a Forest is the true story of a boy in India who understood the importance of trees and being an environmentalist. In a time when we hear so much negative news about the environment, it's charming to read a story that shows how one person can make a difference. I know my students will embrace this message and want to learn more about planting trees. The illustrations help create the mood throughout the story as Jadav starts out with saplings and through hard work and perseverance, creates a lush forest.
Profile Image for Christine Evans.
Author 8 books11 followers
March 21, 2019
One person really can make a difference to the world. In the case of Jadav Payeng, his contribution to a better world started when he was just a boy. He realized that erosion was destroying his island so he started to plant bamboo to help stop it. Years passed and a few plants became a forest. Wildlife returned and his home was saved. This is a wonderful book for the classroom, and home, to show kids that they can make a difference and stand up for what they believe in. Back matter includes instructions on how to grow plants.
Profile Image for Diane.
6,760 reviews
July 11, 2019
“Only by growing plants, the earth will survive.” Jadav Payeng

A young boy, distressed by flood waters destroying the habitat of local animals, goes to his village elders to express his fears. The elders tell him that “the only way to help the animals was to create new homes for them.” They gave him 20 bamboo saplings and through his hard work and devotion he create a forest estimated at 1,300 acres.

Includes an author’s note in the back that goes into more detail. A great addition to the library to cover the theme of how individuals can make a difference.
Profile Image for Jessica.
1,533 reviews21 followers
August 8, 2019
A truly inspiring book. I have been trying to find books where kids can make a difference. It was just published -2019. It is a true story.

Here is a boy who made a difference on his own after finding snakes dying because of a flood that destroyed their habitat. He on his own planted bamboo. It turned into 1300 acres, after 30 years.

I absolutely adored the quotes and the illustrations. "the best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The second best time to plant a tree is now." proverb
"Only by growing plants, the Earth will survive."
Displaying 1 - 30 of 137 reviews

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