Zonia’s Rain Forest by Juana Martinez-Neal

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.”

Synopsis:

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.

Doylie to the Rescue: Saving Baby Monkeys in the Amazon

Doylie to Rescue 61yz1rq+bHL__SY427_BO1,204,203,200_Doylie to the Rescue: Saving Baby Monkeys in the Amazon

Cathleen Burnham, Author and Photographer

Crickhollow Books, Nonfiction, April 2015

Suitable for Ages: 4-10

Themes: Amazon rain forest, Global kids, Youth activism, Wild animal rescue, Baby monkeys, Conservation and protection

Opening: “The Yagua Indian man crept through the Amazon rain forest in Peru. He had been hunting a family of red howler monkeys for hours. If he was successful, his family would eat meat that day. If not, they would go hungry.” 

Synopsis: Doyli, a 10-year-old girl with a big smile, lives in the Amazon rain forest. With the help of her family, they rescue and protect orphaned monkeys from hunters and thieves, nurse them back to health and release them to the wild when they are ready.

Why I like this book:

Cathleen Burnham has written a powerful and  inspiring true-story that carries a very strong message for children that they don’t have to be adults to make a difference. Doyli is proof of how one small act of caring can have an extraordinary impact in protecting wildlife.

This book engages readers in Doyli’s rehabilitation work from the start. It also includes a fascinating glimpse of every day life in the Amazon rain forest. Doyli does household chores, collects drinking water from the river for the family, takes a bath in the river, and travels with her brother in a dug-out canoe to school where she studies math, Spanish, and science. After school, Doyli nurtures the orphaned monkeys back to health with a special diet and her love.

I especially like how the author doesn’t judge the Yagua Indian for shooting a monkey with a poison dart. He’s only trying to feed his family. The same hunter discovers the monkey he shoots has a baby, which he delivers to Doyli’s home the next morning. He knows the baby will be cared for and released back to its natural habitat — a kind of cycle of life story. The story also shows a dark side, where Doyli discovers a man selling a spider monkey in the marketplace. With the help of the police, the man is arrested and Doyli takes the spider monkey home.

Every page of the book is filled with lush, beautiful and touching photographs that really SHOW every aspect of Doyli’s life in the Amazon, the delicate ecosystem  and the gorgeous endangered species living in the rain forest. Readers will also devour all the factual information.

Resources: To learn more about the amazing things Doyli and other children are doing to protect wildlife around the globe, visit the World Association of Kids and Animals (WAKA) and get involved. There is a special teacher’s guide available for classroom use. Make sure you read the Author’s Note about the story behind the story of finding Doyli and her family.

Cathleen Burnham is a journalist, writer and photographer. Doyli to the Rescue is the first “photodocumentary” book in a series of six forthcoming books for young readers that profile wildlife preservation efforts being undertaken by kids around the globe.

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 Perfect Picture Books.