Arrow by Samantha Clark

Arrow by Samantha Clark. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2021. 9781534465978

Rating:  1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 4

Format: Hardcover

 Genre: Fantasy

 What did you like about the book? Arrow was abandoned as a baby and has lived for 12 years under the care of the Guardian, a tree that maintains a magical curtain around her corner of the rainforest.  The Guardian can talk to Arrow, communicate with other trees via root network, and can see what is happening in the forest through the eyes of insects and birds.  Arrow, so named because he was born missing one hand and the arm ends in a point, has learned everything he needs to know about the rainforest from the Guardian, with a little help from his monkey sidekick Curly, but he has never seen another human being.  Arrow and the Guardian are aware that their curtain is weakening, and the magic Anima the tree uses to maintain the curtain is decreasing as well.  Arrow is determined to fix it to keep his home and its flora and fauna safe, but his efforts are soon threatened by two arriving groups.  First he encounters a group of orphan children (dubbed ‘the herd’ by the Guardian) who have stumbled through a hole in the curtain and are excited to find food and shelter; secondly (and more ominous), real estate developers and construction workers descend and begin clearcutting to create a luxury resort.  Despite the Guardian’s distrust, Arrow befriends Petari, a girl from the herd, and tries to work with the other children to create a peaceful coexistence.  He also visits the developers; fascinated by their technology and taken in by false promises, it is almost too late when he realizes their true intentions.  Arrow must trust his instincts, his new friends, and his Guardian to put a stop to a truly terrible outcome.

Arrow is an exciting adventure that is part survival story, part ecological allegory, and part fairy tale.  Narrated in the first person by the Guardian, the book paints a beautifully descriptive picture of the rainforest (presumably Amazonian) and all of its interdependent species, while emphasizing how fragile the balance of nature is.  While it is a fantasy and many magical events occur, readers will certainly pick up on the environmental themes, and Clark has appended resources for further research or action.  

Anything you did not like about the book?  Clark does a great job building tension and apprehension throughout the book but the resolution was very quick and tidy.  

 To whom would you recommend this book? Upper elementary readers who tend toward environmental fantasy such as The Wild Robot or If We Were Giants or dystopian adventures like Pax.

Who should buy this book? Public and elementary school libraries

Where would you shelve it?  Fiction

 Should we (librarians) put this on the top of our “to read” piles?  No

 Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City:  Leigh Russell King, Lincoln Street School, Northborough, Massachusetts.

Date of review: August 29, 2021

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