The Secret Kingdom: Nek Chand, a Changing India, and a Hidden World of Art
Written by Barb Rosenstock
Illustrated by Claire A. Nivola
It’s not too surprising few people have heard of Nek Chand. After all, he kept his activities hidden even from the community he lived and created in for over fifteen years. It was only when the government sought to clear the surrounding brush that his artwork was discovered. The government wanted his creation gone. The community took issue with that notion and saved his hidden rock garden. Of course, it’s much more than a garden. And it’s his ingenuity and courage that are really the story.
The author paints a fascinating picture of the life that Nek lived. The reader is transported to a world unlike the one they live in.
Born in the Punjab region of Pakistan, his early life was an idyllic one, raised on a family farm. After the partition of India and Pakistan, his family was forced to move to the Hindu side, in India. Nek was no longer able to farm, so he became a government road inspector. But whenever he could he gathered oil drums, old sinks, half-dead plants, and other seeming trash. He recycled the materials into a twelve-acre hidden kingdom of walls, paths, statues, and waterfalls. Today, it stands as a memorial to the artist.
Beautiful and detailed illustrations show both the familiar and unfamiliar. The villagers dress differently from Westerners, but the trash they collect is trash the reader might see near home.
This is a fantastic way to introduce kids to Indian culture and also an amazing way to show how perseverance and the human spirit can win.
- Title: The Secret Kingdom: Nek Chand, a Changing India, and a Hidden World of Art
- Author: Barb Rosenstock
- Illustrator: Claire A. Nivola
- Published: Candlewick Press, 2018
- Reviewer: Sue Poduska
- Format: Hardcover, 48 pages
- Grade Level: 2 to 5
- Genre: Picture Book, Nonfiction, History, Art
- ISBN: 978-0-7636-7475-5
- Extras: Author’s Note, Bibliography