By Nancy Churnin, illustrated by Danny Popovici. Creston Books, 2017. 32 pages. $17.99/hardcover. Recommended for ages 5–9.
This lovely book tells the inspirational true story of Dashrath Manjhi (1934–2007), who took 22 years to cut a road through a mountain using only a chisel and a hammer. The road connected his inaccessible village to a more prosperous town where there was access to schools, hospitals, and other opportunities. Churnin’s poetic narration is simple and focuses on Manjhi’s vision and persistence. In the beginning, people tell him he’s crazy, while toward the end they begin to encourage and support him, and even join in the digging. Popovici’s charming watercolor illustrations not only show the scenes and events occurring in the story, but cleverly incorporate Manjhi’s visions as shadows on the rocks or constellations in the sky, helping to illustrate what keeps Manjhi going.
The book includes an author’s note with a more detailed history for those who like additional facts. Certainly this was a story I had not known previously, so I appreciated the background information. Churnin also includes a note entitled “Move Your Own Mountain” encouraging children to consider how they can improve their own communities. There are links to a curriculum guide with good questions about problem solving and some interesting cultural activities. Also listed is a website where children can report on projects they’ve undertaken to move the mountains they see. Not only is this a book with a beautiful story to inspire social action, but it includes some of the tools that might be useful for First-day school classes that read the book and are thinking of projects to complete. It is a purely secular story, but is certainly compatible with consideration of the divine wellsprings of leadings.
Because Manjhi’s cause and Churnin’s telling of it are so concrete, this book could work well with children as young as five, but even older children sometimes appreciate seeing a problem that can be solved with vision, hard work, and persistence.