Book Cover

Zonia is Asháninka, the largest Indigenous group living in the Peruvian Amazon rain forest. “Every morning, the rain forest calls to Zonia. / Every morning, Zonia answers.” Following a blue morpho butterfly, she greets the sloths; sings with the birds; says hello to a band of coatis; rides on a jaguar; watches Amazon river dolphins swim by; congratulates a giant anteater with new babies; sits on a giant lily pad as a caiman floats nearby; and even hangs upside down side by side with a boa constrictor. Sweet illustrations done on handmade banana-bark paper depict a spunky and happy brown-skinned child with high cheekbones and long black hair flying in the wind. Zonia’s life as portrayed here feels beyond idyllic—cartoonishly so, if not for the quality of the art. Abruptly, after her sequence of delightful encounters, Zonia comes across a section of the forest that has been clear-cut. Frightened, she runs home and tells her mother the forest needs help. When her mother tells her the forest “is speaking to you,” Zonia declares, “We all must answer”—and the book ends. With no buildup or explanation, the last sentence carries no emotional weight. The real substance of the book is in its backmatter. There, readers will find the story translated into the Asháninka language by Arlynder Sett Gaspar Paulino, information on the Asháninka and the Amazon rain forest, and the names of the animals depicted in the story. A Spanish edition, La selva de Zonia, publishes simultaneously.

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