Book Review: The Vanishing Rainforest

Reading Level

Ages 9-12

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This book, for upper elementary and middle school students, from Frances Lincoln is an example of how a book can also be a message. In this case, the title itself is the message, with the book's contents backing up the claim made by the title.

The author tells a real-life story through the eyes of fictional characters, a device that doesn't always work but nonetheless gets the point across. In terms of voicing a concern, this book does an excellent job; in terms of achieving a plausible narrative, it succeeds not as well.

However, the point is one well worth noting, and the level of awareness of this impending disaster is sure to go up if enough youngsters and their adult mentors (parents, teachers, etc.) absorb what they read. To wit, the rainforest is disappearing, being replaced by empty forest land and tree stumps, large patches of nothingness replacing vibrant areas of plant and animal life.

The main character in this story is a young girl named Remaema, who sees life and the rainforest through the eyes of many people—her mother, her grandfather, her tribe's elders, and outsiders. She gains perspective on the rainforest "problem" from all of these people; and through her, so do we the readers. We see the devastation and feel its effects. We see the efforts of some people to preserve the rainforest and its habitats. We see the native peoples struggle with their trust of non-natives while trying to keep what they have always had.

The book is being marketed as a call for action, and it is. It is also better as a nonfiction piece than as an object lesson disguised as fiction. This is the only weakness in an otherwise well-written, well-presented and certainly well-illustrated story. The book also contains a helpful glossary, which is especially handy given the unfamiliar words throughout the narrative.

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