Zonia’s Rain Forest
Juana Martinez-Neal, Author and Illustrator
Candlewick, Fiction, Mar. 30, 2021
Suitable for ages: 4-8
Themes: Amazon rain forest, Indigenous people, Wildlife, Nature, Environmental dangers
Opening: “Zonia lives with those she loves in the rain forest, where it is always green and full of life.”
Zonia’s home is the Peruvian rain forest. It is her backyard and her front yard, her neighborhood and her playground. Every morning, it calls to her. Every morning, she answers: hello to the sloth family, greetings to the giant anteater, a run with the speedy jaguar…
One morning, the rain forest calls to Zonia in a different voice, a troubled voice. This is the story of that morning.
Why I like this book:
Zonia’s Rain Forest is a visual feast for the eyes and spirit. It carries a beautiful message that nature must be cherished and cared for. It is the perfect opening for discussion with children about the environment and the role the rain forests play in protecting our planet.
Zonia, is an Asháninka girl, who lives in the rain forest and loves to explore its many wonders. Each morning, this joyful child dances and sings her way through the forest greeting all of her friends and cultivating goodness. Children will love following the Blue Morph butterfly that accompanies Zonia on her journey of transformation. One morning she discovers that a patch of the forest has become victim to deforestation. It frightens her but she knows she must find a way to protect her home.
Juana Martinez-Neal’s book is a treasure. Her illustrations are exquisite and are created with acrylic colored pencil, pastel, ink and linocuts and woodcuts printed on handmade banana bark paper. The result is breathtaking and an important choice for Zonia’s story. She beautifully captures the lush green rain forest abundant with life. Zonia wears a cheerful yellow tunic, which accents her brown-skin and showcases her happy, sunny nature. Just look at that cover!
Zonia and her people are learning to live in harmony with their surroundings. But the rest of world is impatient and wants to develop the Amazon rain forest. Make sure you read the backmatter about The Asháninka People, with a population more than 73,000, A Few Facts about the Amazon, and Threats to the Amazon. The planet and their way of life is being threatened by greed and it impacts everyone.
Resources: This is a perfect Earth Day read! Talk about the rain forest with your children or students. Encourage them to draw pictures of their favorite wildlife in the story. Encourage kids to get involved in projects for Earth Day, April 22. There are very simple things that can be done, like planting a tree in a home or school yard.
Juana Martinez-Neal is the Peruvian born daughter and granddaughter of painters. Her debut as an author-illustrator, Alma and How She Got Her Name, was awarded a a Caldecott Honor and was published in Spanish as Alma y cómo obtuvo su nombre. She also illustrated La Princesa and the Pea by Susan Middleton Elya, for which she won a Pura Belpré Illustrator Award, Babymoon by Hayley Barrett, and Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story by Kevin Noble Maillard, which won a Robert E. Sibert Medal. Juana Martinez-Neal lives in Arizona with her family. Visit her online at her website.
Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.
*Review copy provided by Candlewick Press in exchange for a review.