From its opening pages, this engaging children’s book sets the scene of a world almost unimaginable in the 21st century, a lush, restive, tropical world alive with the spirits of animals and plants.
It begins inside a Yanomami dwelling. A shaman dances around a fire in the cobalt light, intent on a healing ritual. Yarima, a sick baby girl, lays in her mother’s hammock nearby. Meanwhile her 13-year-old brother, Namowë, waits in anticipation of the next days’ hunting trip, his first. But it is not to be.
Instead, he embarks on a journey to find the Luminous Plant, which the village shaman does not possess, in order to save his sister. With a nod to Dorothy’s journey to Emerald City in the Wizard of Oz, Namowe’s trip to Jaguar Mountain is punctuated by encounters with everything from electric eels, bats, owls, otters, a macaw, a dragon-fly bird and a monkey — some irascible, others sarcastic, all animated and talkative.
Like the best “initiation” tales, Amazon Rainforest Magic is fraught with dangers that test our hero’s mettle. It is also a “head’s up” to the rapidly vanishing rain forests of the planet.
Barbara Crane Navarro presents a place and a culture she knows firsthand, having spent considerable time among the Yanomami. Her simple yet sophisticated color drawings pull the reader into this marvelous world where a rich culture continues, at least for the moment, as it has for thousands of years.
Review by B. Alexandra Szerlip
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