Reviewed by Padma Venkatraman
In Forest World, Young People’s Poet Laureate, Margarita Engle, once again demonstrates her mastery over the verse novel form, wielding it to speak eloquently of the need to protect our environment. Told through the eyes of its young protagonists, Edver and Luza, however, this underlying message is by no means conveyed in a preachy tone.
Edver and Luza are siblings, separated due to the political situation of the times. Luza lives in Cuba with her father, whom she considers a “wildlife superhero.” She has always known she had a younger brother, who left with their mother, a cryptozoologist who feels deeply about wildlife conservation. However, Edver, whom we meet first, has no idea he has a sister who is a few years older. When he visits Cuba, expecting to meet his father and runs into his sister as well, he is understandably shocked.
The sibling relationship gets off to a rocky start. At first, their differences surface. Edver is interested in science and videogames. In Cuba, he complains, “How can such a loud island/ be as electronically silent/ as prehistory?” Luza is an artist who recycles trash to create works of art: “…tiny traces of hope/ emerging from mosaics of broken things, / ugly things, microscopic shards/ of possibility.” She loves spending time outdoors.
As the two are forced to be in one another’s company, they start to form a bond. Edver is interested in the environment, and Luza, who enjoys creating works of art out of recycled materials, is as passionate about preserving and protecting the beautiful island that is her home.
They also miss their mother greatly. Although only Edver really knows her, Luza wishes to know her mother, too. Together, they set about scheming to bring her to Cuba to solidify and reconvene their nuclear family. They pretend a new species of butterfly has been discovered, and mention this on the internet, hoping her interest in insects will motivate her to come to Cuba even though her love of her family hasn’t. Continue reading.
Forest World by Margarita Engle
Published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers on August 28, 2018
Genres: Cuba, Environment, Poetry
Reading Level: Grades 3-5, Grades 6-8
Review Source: Pirate Tree
Also by this author: The Sky Painter, Hurricane Dancers, Drum Dream Girl
Publisher's Synopsis: From Young People’s Poet Laureate and award-winning author Margarita Engle comes a lively 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. Why would he want to visit a place that no one in Miami ever mentions without a sigh? Yet now that travel laws have changed and it’s a lot easier for divided families to be reunited, his mom thinks it's time for some father-son bonding.
Edver doesn’t know what this summer has in store, but he’s definitely not expecting to meet a sister he didn’t know existed! Luza is a year older and excited to see her little brother, until she realizes how different their lives have been. Looking for anything they might have in common, they sneak onto the internet—and accidentally catch the interest of a dangerous wildlife poacher. Edver has fought plenty of villains in video games. Now, to save the Cuban jungle they love, he and Luza are going to have to find a way to conquer a real villain!