Monday, August 28, 2017

Review: Forest World by Margarita Engle

by Margarita Engle
Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Middle Grade Fiction
ages 9 to over 100
188 pages

AUGUST 28th, 2017!!!

A middle grade novel in verse that tells the story of a Cuban-American boy who visits his family’s village in Cuba for the first time—and meets a sister he didn’t know he had.

Edver isn’t happy about being shipped off to Cuba to visit the father he barely knows. The island is a place that no one in Miami ever mentions without a sigh, but travel laws have suddenly changed, and now it’s a lot easier for divided families to be reunited. Technology in Cuba hasn’t caught up with the times, though, and Edver is expecting a long, boring summer.

He was NOT expecting to meet a sister he didn’t know he had. Luza is a year older and excited to see her little brother, until she realizes what a spoiled American he is. Looking for something—anything—they might have in common, the siblings sneak onto the Internet, despite it being forbidden in Cuba, and make up a fake butterfly. Maybe now their cryptozoologist mother will come to visit. But their message is intercepted by a dangerous poacher, and suddenly much more than their family is at stake. Edver and Luza have to find a way to overcome their differences to save the Cuban jungle that they both have grown to love.


Through lovely rhyme and verse, this tale paints a plot with feelings and emotions, allowing the beauty and depth to meld with adventure.

Edver and Luza might be brother and sister, but they come from two very different worlds. When Edver's mother suddenly sends him away from Florida to travel to Cuba, he's not sure what to make of anything. Especially when he meets Luza, the sister he didn't know that exists. Confusion reigns, but as they grow together, an adventure begins which will bond them for life.

This is a story written in verse. By flip-flopping between Edver and Luza, the author allows each character's thoughts to come to life through poetry. The plot unfolds slowly through each pair of eyes, while bringing in a beautiful depth not often seen in middle grade fiction. Each poem is relatively short - usually only between one to two pages - and opens up the story in all directions through a well thought out choice of words. Edver and Luza might be siblings, but they are different in every way. And it's this strong contrast which creates the extremely vivid imagery.

Two worlds collide. The children have grown up not only in different countries and cultures, but the gap between their wealth, ideologies, interests, way of life and dreams is wider than the ocean that separates them. Doubt, anger, uncertainty, curiosity, hope and expectations pour from every page. The writing flows with tons of beauty, while adding a bit of adventure in as well. The added twist of preserving endangered species makes this a delightful read. There's even a short glossary and explanation at the end to help readers gain a deeper understanding of the danger these animals are in.

Although this is a beautiful, original and compelling read, most middle graders won't necessarily have the patience to dive into the woven words. The thoughts and feelings of Edver and Luza are well fitting for the age group, but the adventure comes slowly, and the characters develop with more depth than most readers of this age group are ready to swallow. But that doesn't mean that there aren't a few out there who wouldn't love to read this. A slightly older age group will possess the maturity required to digest this tale to its fullest, and adults are sure to enjoy it as well. These readers are sure to get lost in Luza and Endver's world and leave with a new appreciation for the problems people from different cultures face as well as the horrid troubles found in the animal world. 

And here she is. . .

MARGARITA ENGLE is the national Young People's Poet Laureate, and the first Latino to receive that honor. She is the Cuban-American author of many verse novels, including The Surrender Tree, a Newbery Honor winner, and The Lightning Dreamer, a PEN Literary Award for Young Adult Literature winner. Margarita was born in Los Angeles, but developed a deep attachment to her mother's homeland during childhood summers with relatives. She continues to visit Cuba as often as she can. Visit her at

No comments: