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.

The Water Walker by Joanne Robertson

International Women’s Day, Mar. 8 and World Water Day,  Mar. 22, 2018 

The Water Walker

Joanne Robertson, Author and Illustrator

Second Story Press, Fiction, Sep. 15, 2017

Suitable for Ages: 6-9

Themes: Water Conservation, Environmental Protection, Great Lakes Region, Indigenous Grandmothers, Ojibwa Indians

Opening: Nokomis loved Nibi, and Nibi Loved Nokomis. 

Synopsis: The true story of a determined Ojibwe grandmother (Nokomis) Josephine Mandamin and her great love for Nibi (water).  Her passion began as a girl when she would hop out of bed in the morning and sing “Gichi miigwech, Nibi, for the life you give to every living thing on Earth. I love you. I respect. you.”  She was warned by the wise chief that “the day will come when an ounce of water costs more than an ounce of gold. What are you going to do about it?” Eventually she founded the Mother Earth Walkers.

Nokomis walks to raise awareness of our need to protect Nibi for future generations, and for all life on the planet. Nokomis, along with other women, men, and young people, has walked around all of the Great Lakes from the four salt waters — or oceans — all the way to Lake Superior. During one walk alone, Josephine put almost 4,500,000 footsteps on her sneakers!

Why I like this book:

Joanne Robertson’s book is an important tribute to activist Josephine Mandamin and the many Native women and men who have courageously walked around all of the Great Lakes to bring attention to the condition of our water. Her message is not political, but a simple plea to engage people to protect the water, our most important resource.

Robertson has written an exceptional environmental and conservation story that even young children will understand. The language is lyrical and simply presented. Her detailed and illustrations show Josephine’s spunk and determination. The book is interactive and perfect for classroom discussions. Josephine is a strong woman who demonstrates what true activism really means. Youth will be inspired to know that Josephine is passionate about for protecting water for their generation and many more to come. She is a great role model for International Women’s Day. Many readers will want to join in her cause to protect the planet.

Josephine completed her final walk for water last summer. On April 20, 2017, Josephine, joined and supported by the Mother Earth Water Walkers, started out from Duluth, Minnesota then walked east for 97 days along the Great Lakes, arriving in Matane, Québec on July 27.  She traveled over 3,197 miles and put over 6,394,000 footsteps on her sneakers.

Resources: This is an engaging book for World Water Day, Mar. 22, 2018. The book includes a glossary and pronunciation guide for Ojibwe words used in the text. It ends with a note from the author inviting young readers to write a letter to Josephine to tell her all about what they are doing to help protect the environment. Her address is included. This would make an excellent classroom project.

Joanne Robertson is AnishinaabeKwe and a member of Atikameksheng Anishnawbek. She received her Fine Arts degree from Algoma University and Shingwauk Kinoomaage Gamig. She founded the Empty Glass for Water campaign to bring attention to the drinking water crisis in Indigenous communities. She works as a research assistant at the Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre and continues to support the water walks. She lives near Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario.

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.