Zonia’s Rain Forest by Juana Martinez-Neal

Zonia’s Rain Forest by Juana Martinez-Neal (9781536208450)

Zonia lives in the rain forest. Every morning, the rain forest calls to her and she heads inside. She follows a blue butterfly, visiting her friends the sloths. She chats with the birds in the trees. She sees her best friend, a coati, and her fastest friend, the jaguar. She stops by the water and greets all of the new babies. She has a baby brother of her own. She plays in the rain forest, hanging upside down like the snakes and enjoying a game of hide and seek. She has places to be quiet and places to run. But when she discovers something she has never seen before, she rushes home to tell her mother of the devastation she saw. Now it is time for her, and all of us, to do something to help the rain forest.

Zonia is Asháninka, the largest Indigenous group in the Peruvian Amazon. The face paint that she wears on the final page speaks to her determination and strength. Like many Asháninka, Zonia must face the destruction of the rain forest that she and her entire people rely on to survive. By introducing us to the various animals in the Peruvian Amazon rain forest, Martinez-Neal shows all that we as a world have to lose by not protecting them and their habitat. The book ends with information on the animals shown in the story, information on the Asháninka people, and more facts about the Amazon itself.

The art in this picture book is exquisite. Caldecott Honor winner Martinez-Neal uses hand-made paper from the women paper artisans of Chazuta, Peru to paint the illustrations. These papers form the background of all of the images, providing an organic, speckled and natural feel to the scenes. The bright colors of the Amazon rain forest pop against this subtly textured warmth.

An important picture book about saving the Amazon rain forest, it is also beautifully written and illustrated. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy provided by Candlewick Press.

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