Threats to the Rain Forest the Subject of Charming Picture Book

Zonia’s Rain Forest by Juana Martinez-Neal. Candlewick Press, Somerville, Massachusetts, 2021

“Zonia lives with those she loves in the rain forest, where it is always green and full of life.” So begins the story of a small girl whose family lives in harmony with the natural world. The first illustration is of Zonia looking on, while her mother nurses her baby brother.

The next pages show Zonia greeting the various creatures of the rain forest. She first encounters the Blue Morpho Butterfly, which follows her throughout the story. All of the creatures she meets are identified in the back matter. The illustrations reflect the subtle hues of nature, but with the occasional vibrant coloring such as the butterfly, the Andean Cock-of-the-rock, and the giant Amazon Lily.

After greeting all her animal and plant friends, Zonia heads home to see her mother and baby brother.

“On her way home, Zonia comes across something she has not seen before.” A large piece of the forest is gone. Zonia is pictured standing among the only greenery left as she gazes at the wreckage. The blue butterfly perches on top of one of the tree stumps left behind by loggers. She rushes home to tell her mother that the forest needs help.

“’It is speaking to you,’ says Zonia’s mama.”
“’Then I will answer,’ says Zonia, ‘as I always do. We all must answer.'”

The final page shows a small, determined girl intent on saving her friends of the rain forest.

The back matter explains that Zonia is Ashaninka, the largest Indigenous group living in the Peruvian Amazon. Today, they are fighting to protect their land from development. “At times, the Ashaninka use plant-based paint on their faces or bodies to complement their actions or abilities.” On the final page of the story, Zonia is shown with this red type of face paint which signals strength and determination.

There is information about the importance of saving the Amazon and the many threats to its existence on the final pages. In the acknowledgments, the author/illustrator thanks “…the women paper artisans of Chazuta who hand-made the paper used to paint the illustrations in this book.” The use of mixed media, including linocuts and woodcuts, on banana bark paper invokes a feeling of being in the forest with Zonia. The simple text, along with the engaging illustrations, will engage even the youngest child.

A perfectly stunning book.




About stephanielowden

I am the author of two middle grade novels: Time of the Eagle, published by Blue Horse Books, and Jingo Fever, published by Crickhollow Books. Time of the Eagle is a survival story and takes place during the fur trade era in the Lake Superior region. Jingo Fever takes place during WWI and deals with bullying amidst an anti-immigrant atmosphere.
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