Over and Under the Rainforest by Kate Messner, illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal (9781452169408)
This is the third book in the Over and Under series that explores ecosystems with children. The young narrator hikes into the rain forest with Tito, their guide. They discover the hidden world in the canopies of the trees, filled with monkeys, insects and birds. They cross a rope bridge that sways above the sleep crocodiles in the river. As they get higher, they see monkeys swing in the trees. Sloths ignore the rain as it starts to fall while blue morpho butterflies take shelter on the tree trunks. Everywhere there is life, small and large, predator and prey. The two people make it home for dinner, as darkness falls.
Messner creates a story that wraps the reader in the experience of walking through a rain forest. Every page offers new animals, the sound of rain, the sway of the bridges. She shows it all with such wonder and fascination that one can’t read the book without also getting curious and wanting to learn more. She offers that in her Author’s Note as well as providing more information on the animals in the book.
Neal’s art is vibrant and beautiful, showing the play of light through the huge trees. He depicts each of the animals, some well known and others that will be new to the reader. As fog descends in the book, it fills the pages creating mystery and beauty.
A journey worth taking. Appropriate for ages 5-7.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Chronicle Books.
We Are Not Free by Traci Chee (9780358131434)
Brace yourself for this teen novel that brings you along with fourteen teens who are taken into the Japanese detention camps in the United States during World War II. The teenagers have all grown up together in Japantown in San Francisco. But when Pearl Harbor is bombed, their lives are destroyed when their families are relocated to the detention camps. Told in each of their voices, the story revolves around their daily lives in the camp, the intolerable racism and injustice that they face, and how they navigate still being Americans.
Chee moves from her successful fantasy trilogy to this incredibly impactful story of a group of friends who are taken from their lives. Her writing is exceptional, moving from straightforward storytelling to passages that sing with poetic touches to direct verse. All of it screams of the injustice, demanding that people see what actually happened in the camps and the impossible decisions faced by the Japanese Americans who were held there. She also very successfully moves to the battlefields of World War II, breaking lives and hearts.
Fourteen voices are a lot to manage as an author, but Chee does it with such a deep understanding of each character that readers can simply allow the characters to flow around them at first. By the end of the book, readers will have connected with each of the characters both from their own perspectives and from the adjoining stories of the other characters that include them as well. It is deftly done, capturing readers into this powerful story and making it impossible to look away or deny.
Incredibly eloquent and compelling, this historical fiction for teens is one that can’t be missed. Appropriate for ages 13-17.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by HMH Books for Young Readers.