Zonia’s Rain Forest by Juana Martinez-Neal. Candlewick, 2021. 9781536208450
Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 5
Genre: Picture book
What did you like about the book? Zonia is an Asháninka girl who lives in the Peruvian Amazon River basin with her loved ones, shown as her mother and a nursing baby brother. Accompanied by a strikingly colored blue morpho butterfly, she joyfully visits her various animal friends in the rainforest – two-toed sloths, cocks-of-the-rock, coatis, and others. It is clear that she lives in harmony with the place and its inhabitants – “[She] knows just who to visit when she wants to be quiet and still.” But when Zonia comes across a patch of forest that has been deforested, she runs back to her mother, frightened at what she has seen. Her mother tells her that the forest is speaking to her. ‘”Then I will answer,” says Zonia, “as I always do.” / “We all must answer.”‘ On the last page, Zonia looks like a little warrior, with beautiful markings of red paint on her sweet brown face signaling her determination to protect her homeland.
This is a strikingly beautiful picture book. The language is poetic and simple; the art is stunning. The author used acrylic, colored pencil, pastel, ink and linocuts and woodcuts on handmade banana leaf paper, and the combination of textures and colors is wonderful. Back matter includes a translation of the text into the Asháninka language, facts about the Asháninka people and the Amazon, including the threats to their existence, and a lovely key to the animals portrayed in the story. There is also a list of sources and resources. What a thoughtful and moving book!
Anything you didn’t like about it? No
To whom would you recommend this book? A wonderful choice for story time or classroom discussion, for ages 4-8.
Who should buy this book? Day care centers, elementary school and public libraries
Where would you shelve it ? Picture books
Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? Yes
Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City and State: Stephanie Tournas, Robbins Library, Arlington, MA
Date of review: May 4, 2021