The Secret Kingdom: Nek Chand, a Changing India, and a Hidden World of Art by Barb Rosenstock, illustrated by Claire A. Nivola (9780763674755)
A nonfiction picture book look at the incredible Rock Garden of Chandigarh. Chand grew up happily in a small village in the Punjab region of India. He grew up there, hearing stories and building palaces on the sand near the river. As an adult, he became a farmer but everything changed when the partition of India happened in 1947. Forced from his home and into a city, Chand struggled to find the beauty he had grown up with. He finally discovered it in the jungle along the city’s edge. There he cut back the vegetation and built himself a hut. He started gathering items and bringing them into the jungle. Then he started building a secret kingdom, one that was undiscovered by anyone else for fifteen years. When the officials wanted it destroyed, the local community rose up to protect this outsider’s art.
Rosenstock manages to keep the complicated story of the partition of India to a scale that allows young readers to understand its impact on Chand, but also not get caught in the political details. She cleverly uses repetition of themes in the book, creating a feel of a traditional tale that suits this subject perfectly. She also shows the care and attention to detail that Chand demonstrated in his quiet work. There is a sense of awe around both his skill and his dedication to his vision.
Nivola’s art is fine-lined and marvelously detailed. From the lush jungle setting to the various figures he created. It is impressive that when the pages unfold to show photographs of the actual Rock Garden, there is no jarring moving from illustration to image. It flows naturally and yet allows the full images to amaze too.
A look at an outsider artist who created a world all his own. Appropriate for ages 4-7.
Reviewed from library copy.
The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books has named their 2018 Blue Ribbons. On their website, you will find short descriptions of each book with age ranges. Here they are with covers:
Astrid the Unstoppable by Maria Parr
Baby Monkey, Private Eye by Brian Selznick and David Serlin
The Book of Pearl by Timothee de Fombelle
Dread Nation by Justina Ireland
Dream Country by Shannon Gibney
Love to Everyone by Hilary McKay
Monday’s Not Coming by Tiffany D. Jackson
Secret Sisters of the Salty Sea by Lynne Rae Perkins
The War Outside by Monica Hesse
When Light Left Us by Leah Thomas
The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw
Americanized: Rebel without a Green Card by Sara Saedi
Attucks!: Oscar Robertson and the Basketball Team That Awakened a City by Phillip Hoose
Bird Builds a Nest by Martin Jenkins, illustrated by Richard Jones
Bonnie and Clyde: The Making of a Legend by Karen Blumenthal
Boots on the Ground: America’s War in Vietnam by Elizabeth Partridge
Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World by Penelope Bagieu
The Girl Who Drew Butterflies: How Maria Merian’s Art Changed Science by Joyce Sidman
Hey, Kiddo! by Jarrett J. Krosoczka
A History of Pictures for Children: From Cave Paintings to Computer Drawings by David Hockney and Martin Gayford, illustrated by Rose Blake
Otis and Will Discover the Deep: The Record-Setting Dive of the Bathysphere by Barb Rosenstock
Spooked!: How a Radio Broadcast and The War of the Worlds Sparked the 1938 Invasion of America by Gail Jarrow
The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by Rafael Lopez
Do You Believe in Unicorns? by Bethanie Deeney Murguia
Drawn Together by Minh Le, illustrated by Dan Santat
Dreamers by Yuyi Morales
The Eleventh Hour by Jacques Goldstyn
The Funeral by Matt James
Julian Is a Mermaid by Jessica Love
Night Job by Karen Hesse, illustrated by G. Brian Karas
A Parade of Elephants by Kevin Henkes
The Patchwork Bike by Maxine Beneba Clarke, illustrated by Van Thanh Rudd