The Secret Kingdom: Nek Chand, a Changing India, and a Hidden World of Art

illus. by Claire A. Nivola. 48p. bibliog. photos. Candlewick. Feb. 2018. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780763674755.
Gr 2–5—The story of artist and visionary Nek Chand, who turned a story of exile and social division into a beautiful artistic tribute to India and its people. Chand was raised in the village of Barian Kalan and spent his childhood in the company of ancient stories, laughter, planting gardens, and roaming freely in the jungles and open fields. After the great partition of 1947, Chand fled as a refugee from his home in Pakistan to his family's new home in India. Heartbroken, he dreamt of a place he and his family could truly belong. Eventually he found a hidden jungle on the north end of Chandigarh and began to create a wonderland of art from scraps, stones, rusty pipes, cracked water pots, and boulders. He revived the plants, built winding paths, and shaped the recycled materials into animals, sculptures, and archways. He kept it a secret for 15 years, until the government found it and threatened to shut it down. But the people of Chandigarh had fallen in love with the secret kingdom, and won the fight to preserve it. To this day, the kingdom remains the largest visionary art site in the world. Watercolor illustrations bring life to the vision of Chand and kingdom of magic and imagination.
VERDICT A captivating biographical narrative, this book is an ideal choice for expanding any visual arts—focused picture book collection.

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