Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Zebra Forest by Adina Rishe Gewirtz

Annie, the main character, is more grown up than her eleven years of life tell. She has only vague memories of her mother and father and her grandmother only hints that her dad was murdered by "an angry man". In addition, she has spent her life lying to social workers and teachers to protect her grandmother and brother. Life for Annie isn’t easy; they are poor and her grandmother isn’t always feeling well and can spend days in her room in bed. This leaves the running of the house and caring for her younger brother in Annie’s hands. When she and her brother Rew have free time, they spend it in the trees in the backyard-a mixture of birch and chocolate they call the Zebra Forest-and Annie tells stories. Stories about their father as a pirate are the favorite, but he also stars as a secret agent or a pilot. Summer would have passed by just like that, except that the nearby prison has a jailbreak and their world is shattered. 

This is a well told tale, although the emotional upheaval doesn’t seem as deep or traumatic as I think it must have been for Annie and the huge coincidence seems too big to be on accident. We get a better sense of Rew’s pain as he grapples with his new reality, but as Annie is the narrator, it seems like we should get to see her pain more closely and we don't. Perhaps it is glossed over a bit because it is, after all, a children’s book? Grades 6-8 (easy read but content a bit much for younger readers?)