Latinx Kid-Lit Corner: Children's Books

Friends from the Amazon Rainforest: Latinx Kid-Lit Corner (Vol. III)

Welcome back to our third edition of Latinx Kid-Lit Corner. I couldn’t be more excited to share this next picture book title in our lineup. Both the themes and the creator of the story are hot topics of the day and personal favorites of mine. Available in both English and Spanish, Zonia’s Rain Forest, is Juana Martinez-Neal’s second publication as writer and illustrator. In this enchanting story, the rainforest calls out to our little pal Zonia. From Zonia’s perspective, the wildlife she encounters in the rainforest is anything but wild. Once you sneak a peek at this beautifully crafted book, I’m sure Zonia’s Rain Forest will be calling out to you too.

The Setting and Themes

According to the Nature Conservancy, rainforests cover only 2 percent of the earth’s surface. However, the rainforests are home to virtually 50 percent of our world’s plants and animals. In Latin America, they are also home to a small number of indigenous peoples that still live by traditional hunting and gathering methods. This is where the story of Zonia’s Rain Forest is set.

ZONIA’S RAIN FOREST. Copyright © 2021 by Juana Martinez-Neal. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA

Representing one of the most, if not the most underrepresented peoples in the world, is the story’s protagonist, Zonia. Zonia is a brown skinned, dark haired, dark eyed, joyful little indigenous girl that lives in the Amazon rainforest. The animals of the Amazon are her personal companions. With Zonia leading the way, readers are swept into the rainforest to discover the unique relationship she has with her Amazonian friends. Zonia’s positive and playful spirit carries us to the end of the story where she comes across a devastating sight. It’s a place where trees have been cut down and the energy of life is no longer existent. Without being preachy, the story does well to introduce the issues of deforestation and the human impacts on biodiversity.

The Illustrations

If you are a tree hugger like me, you will appreciate the themes and the way the story calls people to act on behalf of the wildlife that continues to be devastated. However, you don’t have to be a tree hugger to appreciate the beautifully illustrated artwork that fills the pages of the book. This author/illustrator has worked on multiple highly regarded books. Her artistic style is unquestionably her own. In this book, she does well to capture the authentic details, colors, and character that differentiates the Amazon rainforest from other places around the world.

ZONIA’S RAIN FOREST. Copyright © 2021 by Juana Martinez-Neal. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA

The Reading Level

Recommended as a book for ages 4-8, the story has vocabulary and plot that are suitable for children who are beginning to read books on their own. The book is also a great resource for younger children who are just beginning to memorize words and numbers. Overall, the book may be at its best when read aloud to the youngest of readers. By having illustrations and sentences that do very well to play off each other, the story encourages many instances for educators to interact with children. There are instances for counting, moments for solving mystery on the page, and areas to touch on the subjects of wildlife and deforestation. If you’re looking for a book that honors diversity and inclusivity, Zonia’s Rain Forest is a playful read that can work wonderfully in the classroom or at home for your next story time.

ZONIA’S RAIN FOREST. Copyright © 2021 by Juana Martinez-Neal. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA

That concludes this edition of the Latinx Kid-Lit Corner. I hope you found this review insightful. Give us your thoughts. Send me an email. I’m open to your suggestions for future books to feature on the Latinx Kid-Lit Corner. Email me at [email protected] or DM me on Instagram @tropicsalvi.

About Juana Martinez-Neal

Juana Martinez-Neal: Born in Lima, Peru, Juana is an award winning author-illustrator of children’s books. Some of her prior works include, La Princesa and the Pea (written by Susan M. Elya, Putnam/Penguin), winner of the 2018 Pura Belpré Medal for Illustration, and Alma and How She Got Her Name (Candlewick Press), awarded the 2019 Caldecott Honor. For more information about the author-illustrator, visit her website at

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