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A man moved a mountain – how is that even possible? I flipped the pages of Nancy Churnin’s children’s book, Manjhi Moves a Mountain with a sense of disbelief. Disbelief soon turned to awe as I learnt about Manjhi and his mountain. Dashrath Manjhi, a poor laborer near Gaya in India worked with just a hammer and chisel to carve a path singlehandedly through a mountain that separated the villages of Atri and Wazirganj. This task took him 22 long years!

I couldn’t believe it – a tale that took on almost mythical proportions in my mind – was this indeed true? I spoke to the author Nancy Churnin about her book, Manjhi Moves a Mountain and wanted to find out about what moved her to write about Manjhi and his mountain. Nancy Churnin’s voice over the phone was friendly and revealed a sincerity of spirit that revealed itself soon enough as she shared her thoughts. She told me that she first wrote a children’s book on William Hoy, the deaf baseball player who changed the game forever.  Soon, she started receiving notes from children all over the country about how the story made a personal difference to them – differently abled children and normal children interested in the game were equally inspired reading the story of William Hoy.

This outpouring of support got her thinking about her next project on inspiring change makers, and her research led her to the story of Dashrath Manjhi. As soon as she read about him, she knew in her heart that children would benefit so much by learning about how an ordinary person who was filled with determination to change things could succeed with determination. “People laughed at him when he started,” she said and continued, “but his vision kept him going. This is not unlike what children face many times – when I talk to children in schools, I ask them – how can you make a difference? And, soon the answers are shouted out with enthusiasm – being kind, stopping a bully. If you start thinking about it, making a difference is really like moving your own mountain.”

Illustrations by Danny Popovici fill the pages and even adults will be captivated by the words and images that bring the story alive.

It is no wonder then that Manjhi Moves a Mountain is running neck and neck in the prestigious Children’s Choice Book Awards. Link for voting given below – buy your book today and vote for Manjhi and his Mountain!

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Nirupama Vaidhyanathan is a multifaceted artist - a dancer, writer, storyteller, and educator. She founded the Sankalpa School of dance, where she trains the next generation of committed dancers to pursue...