Author: Lewis, Gill
Deep in the heart of the Congo, a baby gorilla is captured by a group of rebel soldiers. Imara and Bobo are also prisoners in the rebels' camp. When they learn that the gorilla will be sold into captivity, they swear to return it to the wild before it's too late. But the consequences of getting caught are too terrible to think about. Will the bond between the gorilla and the children give them the courage they need to escape?
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|Accelerated Reader Information:|
Interest Level: MG
Reading Level: 4.40
Points: 9.0 Quiz: 189041
Kirkus Reviews (12/01/16)
School Library Journal (01/01/17)
Booklist (+) (02/15/17)
The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books (01/17)
Full Text Reviews:
Bulletin for the Center... - 01/01/2017 Imara doesn’t know how many years she has been traveling through the Democratic Republic of Congo with the Mambas after they slaughtered her family and village. She only knows that when they cut her face during the massacre, they let a demon in, and its presence allowed her to live and become their Spirit Child. The Mambas have now made camp near a protected area of a jungle where rangers guard endangered gorillas. Meanwhile, Bobo believes the rebels have taken his ranger father and ventures out into the jungle to save his father and protect the gorillas. While the focalization shifts among Imara, Bobo, and Kitwana, a baby gorilla that comes into Imara’s care, this is really Imara’s story, and her cool indifference is the most heartbreaking evidence of the tragedy that surrounds her. As the demon screams at her internally to obey the Mambas, to watch their killings without flinching, to hold a gun to a little boy’s chest, readers quickly realize there is no evil spirit within her, only a coping mechanism that has aided her survival. The straightforward text has a simplicity that conveys the violence and despair more powerfully than any vivid description would; Imara’s brief observation of Bobo’s haunted look after he returns from a raid with the Mambas needs no further explanation. While the conclusion reunites various parties, both Bobo and Imara recognize their innocence is gone. Readers not quite ready for the reality of Beah’s A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier (BCCB 5/07) will find this fictional account to be an effective and emotional exploration of an ongoing crisis. KQG - Copyright 2017 The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois.
School Library Journal - 01/01/2017 Gr 5–8—As a child enslaved to a pitiless and greedy rebel leader who rules his desperate band in the jungles of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Imara has accepted a dark voice inside of her so she can survive in the role of the group's Spirit Child. When the leader establishes an illegal mining operation inside a national forest, a baby gorilla kidnapped by Imara's fellow child soldiers works its way into the girl's closed-off heart, exposing her to all the dangers that being vulnerable can bring. Lewis drops readers into this visceral rain forest setting. She vividly follows the axiom of "show, don't tell," using short sentences and situational vocabulary while assuming readers will approach the book with basic knowledge about traditional Congolese religious beliefs and cultural practices. Lewis uses notes before and after the story to raise sympathy for the plight of the environment and for gorillas, while leaving truly horrifying atrocities off the page or between the lines. This novel provides middle grade readers just the right distance from the emotional resonance of the characters' horror-filled experiences, resulting in a work that is gripping and educational though not wholly terrifying, but many may come away with a garbled and incomplete understanding of this region of the world. VERDICT A powerful read on the topic of Congolese rebel groups for intrepid middle schoolers.—Rhona Campbell, Georgetown Day School, Washington, DC - Copyright 2017 Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and/or School Library Journal used with permission.
Booklist - 02/15/2017 *Starred Review* As she did in Moon Bear (2015), Lewis shines a light on an industry still relatively unknown among western readers. Here it’s the mining of coltan, a mineral key to the production of cell phones, which is often excavated in places gorillas call home. Imara, kidnapped by rebels years ago, is now a child soldier with a group starting an illegal coltan mine in the Congo. Bobo’s pursuing the rebels in hopes of clearing the name of his father, a ranger accused of leading the rebels to a band of gorillas, the youngest of which they’ve captured and intend to sell to the corrupt white business woman who’s buying the “conflict-free” coltan. Imara, meanwhile, forms a powerful bond with the 18-month-old gorilla, which she names Kitwana, reawakening her long-forgotten compassion and weakening the tough exterior that had been so essential to her survival. Alternating among Imara, Bobo, and Kitwana’s perspectives, Lewis lays out the complicated relationship between widespread poverty, opportunistic groups (including white business owners and corrupt government officials), and environmental threats. The heart of the story lies firmly among the children and their struggle both to survive and not fall for the comfort promised by corrupt adults. Suspenseful pacing keeps the pages turning, and the provocative questions raised about conservation, consumerism, and the global effects of widespread poverty will keep readers thinking long after the last page. - Copyright 2017 Booklist.