|Zonia's rain forest|
Author: Martinez-Neal, Juana
Every morning, the rain forest calls to Zonia, and every morning, she answers. She visits the sloth family, greets the giant anteater, and runs with the speedy jaguar. But one morning, the rain forest calls to her in a troubled voice. How will Zonia answer?
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Kirkus Reviews (-) (03/15/21)
School Library Journal (+) (02/01/21)
Booklist (+) (01/01/21)
Full Text Reviews:
Booklist - 01/01/2021 *Starred Review* TITLE: Answering the Forest's CallDEK: A young girl's pledge to protect the AmazonIn her first solo project since her Caldecott Honor–winning Alma and How She Got Her Name (2018), Martinez-Neal presents a tale that is both celebratory and cautionary in nature. Apple-cheeked with long, dark hair tumbling down her back, Zonia spends a happy morning exploring the rain forest where she lives. First, she follows a blue morpho butterfly into the dense understory, delighting when it lands beside four sweet-faced sloths dangling from a branch. Next, she greets “some chatty new neighbors” (red-plumed Andean cocks-of-the-rock) with a smile so big it barely fits on the girl’s face. She continues, appreciating others’ perspectives (literally, by hanging upside-down in a tree), their playfulness and speed, as well as the quiet and calm that they afford, as when she visits some Arrau turtles.At its simplest level, this is a beautiful story about a child who loves her home and the animals she with whom she shares it. Martinez-Neal’s rounded, soft-textured illustrations are wonderfully inviting and involve linocut and woodcut leaves and fronds printed on natural banana-bark paper. Amid these varied greens, Zonia shines in her marigold tunic, as do many of the warmly or brightly colored animal friends she visits; young readers will enjoy finding the blue butterfly in every spread and learning the names of the rain forest creatures, which are identified in the back matter. The text is kept to two short sentences per double-page spread, reflecting Zonia’s uncomplicated and innocent view of the world, which is shaken when she stumbles upon a large section of clear-cut forest.This scene is Martinez-Neal’s call to action for her readers. Like Zonia, kids will know instinctively that what they are seeing is bad, even if they don’t fully understand why, and they will accept Zonia’s charge to protect the forest. Zonia is Asháninka, an Indigenous people of the Peruvian Amazon. Martinez-Neal provides information on the Asháninka and the Amazon rain forest in back matter, which is written with a sense of urgency. She doesn’t shy away from calling out racial and social injustices faced by Indigenous peoples, most of whom feel a deep connection and commitment to their forest home. Subsequent facts about the Amazon and threats to it (farming, illegal logging, etc.) underscore the necessity of protecting the environment and supporting those working for this cause.It is a somewhat jarring conclusion to an otherwise free-spirited book, which may be off-putting to some readers. Though Zonia’s resolve to answer the forest’s call for help would perhaps feel more empowering if the back matter also included ways for children to become involved in the cause, readers will undoubtedly be moved by Zonia’s experience and compelled to learn more about these forests and the people who live in them. An Asháninka translation of the story is also included and serves as another reminder that the Asháninka are at the heart—or, more accurately, are the heart—of this beautiful tale, and it behooves us all to listen them in their concern for the Amazon.Ultimately, this is a conversation starter and worthy companion to books such as The Lorax and Carole Lindstrom’s We Are Water Protectors (2020), capable of bridging more complex discussions on racial and environmental activism, as well as the study of rain forest biomes. Children don’t need statistics to understand that destroying animals’ and people’s forest homes is harmful, but arming them with facts to gird their compassion will ensure they are a force to be reckoned with in fights to come. - Copyright 2021 Booklist.
School Library Journal - 02/01/2021 PreS-Gr 3—Zonia, a young Asháninka girl living in the Amazon rainforest begins her days with a walk through the lush forest and greeting all her animal friends. Martinez-Neal describes Zonia's carefree life among the unique species that surround her and call to her in sparse words, and soothing shades of green and earth tones that are full of texture. In her bright yellow dress, with sparkling eyes, terra cotta–colored skin and long, straight black hair, Zonia is vibrant and her curiosity is infectious. On her way home, the young Indigenous girl stumbles upon a patch that has been a victim of deforestation. Frightened, she decides she must answer the call to protect her home. The book includes back matter that will appeal to older readers and is well suited for classroom use on the Asháninka people, facts about and threats to the Amazon rainforest, as well as information about the animals Zonia encounters. VERDICT This beautiful look at a young girl's life and her determination to save her home is a perfect read for young environmentalists.—Monisha Blair, Rutgers Univ., NJ - Copyright 2021 Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and/or School Library Journal used with permission.