Cover image for The secret kingdom : Nek Chand, a changing India, and a hidden world of art / Barb Rosenstock ; illustrated by Claire A. Nivola.
The secret kingdom : Nek Chand, a changing India, and a hidden world of art / Barb Rosenstock ; illustrated by Claire A. Nivola.
First edition.
Publication Information:
Somerville, Massachusetts : Candlewick Press, 2018.

Physical Description:
1 volume (unpaged) : colour illustrations ; 29 cm
Documents the story of how artist Nek Chand, in the aftermath of the partition of India in 1947, created the Rock Garden of Chandigarh, using stockpiled castoff construction materials and debris, as a tribute to the village of his youth.
Audience/Reading Level:
Interest age level: 7-10.
Added Author:


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
730.92 CHA ROS Book Junior Collection

On Order



The incredible story of the world's largest visionary environment: the Rock Garden of Chandigarh, kept secret by outsider artist Nek Chand for fifteen years.

After the partition of India in 1947, Nek Chand Saini settled in the city of Chandigarh, with nothing but stories brought from his homeland. Dismayed at his stark new surroundings, Nek began collecting river rocks, broken glass, and cracked water pots found on the roadside. He cleared a section of jungle and for seven years he stockpiled odds and ends. They were castoffs and rubbish to everyone else, but to Nek, they were treasures. He began to build a labyrinth of curving paths, mosaics, and repeating patterns: his very own tribute to the winding village of his youth, a hidden land of stories. Nek kept his kingdom secret for fifteen years, until a government crew stumbled upon it and sought to destroy it. But local fans agreed in awe: the Rock Garden had to be protected. Author Barb Rosenstock introduces readers to the outsider artist's stunning creation, while Claire A. Nivola's illustrations bring to life the land's natural beauty and the surreal world Nek coaxed from his wild landscape.

Author Notes

Barb Rosenstock is a children's book author who loves true stories. Her work includes The Camping Trip That Changed America: Theodore Roosevelt, John Muir, and Our National Parks , illustrated by Mordicai Gerstein; The Noisy Paint Box: The Colors and Sounds of Kandinsky's Abstract Art, illustrated by Mary GrandPré; and many others. Barb Rosenstock lives in Chicago.

Claire A. Nivola is an award-winning artist who has written and illustrated many books for children. She is the author-illustrator of Orani: My Father's Village and Planting the Trees of Kenya: The Story of Wangari Maathai . She lives in Newton, Massachusetts.

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

As a child in his poor village in South Asia's Punjab region, Nek Chand found every opportunity to create art from salvaged materials. Partition in 1947 forced Chand to leave his home for the modern Indian city of Chandigarh, "a sharp-edged city of colorless concrete." Seeking to create a home more like the one he left, Chand constructed a hidden forest sanctuary from stones and discarded objects, which he would keep secret for 15 years. Though Chand's kingdom was eventually discovered, the community embraced his artistry, despite ongoing threats to demolish it. Chand's quiet resolve comes through strongly in Nivola's understated paintings, and a dramatic gatefold reveals photographs of his kingdom today. Rosenstock's gratifying story conveys how art has the capacity to revitalize and restore. An author's note shares additional details about Chand, his creation, and the ongoing struggle to preserve it. Ages 7-10. Author's agent: Rosemary Stimola, Stimola Literary Studio. (Feb.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Horn Book Review

Rosenstock's moving picture-book celebration of folk artist Nek Chand (creator of the Rock Garden of Chandigarh) opens in an idyllic village in Punjab. After the Partition of India in 1947, resettled refugee Chand assuages homesickness by (illegally) clearing jungle land and building an ever-increasing number of sculptures and mosaic walls out of recycled materials. Nivola's folk-art sensibility befits the simplicity of Chand's art. Bib. (c) Copyright 2018. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.