A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Lost Rainforest: Mez's Magic is the first book in a magical rainforest-set series by Eliot Schrefer, who wrote some books in the Spirit Animals series. Like that series, animals are in great danger here, with talking animals dying. Two animal "corpses" are described as "emptied out." Another animal is nearly crushed to death by a predator. A wind vortex sucks animals -- at first it's supposed they are all dead, but they are imprisoned. Ants crawl all over animals, once with the threat that they will sting and kill. Wasps sting in a swarm, almost killing animals. Animals trapped in the dark underground are worried they will be buried and die there. Animals from all walks of animal kingdom life get together to combat a growing evil, leading to lessons about the power of teamwork and sticking together, and what harm prejudice can do. Kids will learn about some lesser-known rainforest animals, some of their talents -- like echolocation and stealth hunting -- and which animals are nocturnal and diurnal.
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What's the story?
In THE LOST RAINFOREST: MEZ'S MAGIC, the panther Mez has a dangerous secret. She's a nocturnal animal, or a nightwalker, like all panthers, but somehow she's able to wake during the day. It's considered so unnatural to her kind that it would be a cause for banishment if her Aunt Usha, head of her pride, ever found out. All nocturnal animals in the magical rainforest of Caldera are completely unable to wake until the Veil descends. Or so Mez thinks, until she sees a nocturnal boa constrictor outside her den one day. He introduces himself as Auriel and explains that he has the ability to communicate with ants, who are everywhere and know all about the forest. Auriel discovered that, after an eclipse, many animals born at that time were given special abilities -- the ability to wake during the day is just the start. Auriel says he's gathering all these special eclipse-born animals, large and small, to fight against the release of the aunt queen, an enormous predator that threatens to enslave the whole forest.
Is it any good?
While there's lots of action for kids to enjoy in this rainforest-set tale, it's lacking both a strong narrator to hold the story together and a kid-friendly tone when animals speak. Author Eliot Schrefer, who's known for animal-focused tales, is heading into a fantasy-laden realm with Mez's Magic. He stays tight to all his animal characters as they're introduced, which works OK. But as the story reaches the ziggurat and there's a mythology to explore, important setup gets lost when the story is seen through young animal eyes. And two objects in particular -- the sun and moon pieces needed for a ritual to save them all -- are barely described, and barely followed up on. This is confusing, considering their importance.
Something that truly went awry here was the animal dialogue. These young animals sound like psychotherapists -- except for the monkey who shouts "holy monkey butts." That was a relief. A mother vole says to her children, "Let them go about their business without gawking at them. It's what we'd hope for if the roles were reversed." Another animal talks about being "on the defensive." A frog says, "[For] moment-to-moment decisions I'd rather cede to someone else ... for our general leadership needs." The frog is supposed to be a bit uppity and chatty, but most characters end up sounding just the same. Any psychotherapist will tell you, the more you intellectualize, the further you get from real feelings. This dialogue pulls the animals away from real character growth and distracts the reader.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the harsh realities of the animal kingdom in Mez's Magic. What happens to eggs that hatch late? How long are bats parented? What happens to some hatched baby snakes? Is this cruelty or part of nature?
What do you think happened to the "two-legs" depicted in the ziggurat art?
Will you keep reading this series? Which animal's story interests you the most? Why?
- Author: Eliot Schrefer
- Illustrator: Emilia Dziubak
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Adventures, Brothers and Sisters, Bugs, Friendship, Misfits and Underdogs, Science and Nature, Wild Animals
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
- Publication date: January 2, 2018
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 8 - 12
- Number of pages: 368
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: May 24, 2019
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