Kids Save a Tropical Treasure

By Kristin Joy Pratt-Serafini with Rachel Crandell
Published by Dawn Publications

Reviewed by Emily Baker LeRoux

As a home schooling mother of two, I have to admit I like books. I mean REALLY like books.  They seem to multiply in our house and I like to think of it as literary decoration. It works for us though; I find both kids sprawled in various rooms throughout the day with a pile of books next to them.

I first stumbled across The Forever Forest while browsing at the library on the never-ending search for books for my six-year-old animal-loving kid. Upon first glance, I thought this was just another book on the animals that live in the rainforest but I knew he’d love it so I checked it out.  It turned out to be so much more.

Our favorite books are those that have combine beautiful artwork with interesting text…preferably where we learn a little something we didn’t know before. The Forever Forest did this beautifully. The story line follows a young boy and his mother as they visit Costa Rica and the Children’s Eternal Rainforest (commonly referred to as the BEN).  Costa Rica’s rich and varied ecosystem is well depicted here, doing a beautiful job of transporting the readers to this lush rainforest. You can almost hear the Howler Monkey’s call.

The variety of animals and plants that thrive in Costa Rica are interesting and different enough to engage most readers, and each page highlights one or two mixed in with the story.  The author has used the sidebars to give further information about each of those species.  Every member of our family learned something new from these interesting bits. I really like that this information was presented near the references in the book so the kids had the visual to go along with the facts.  Don’t think the learning opportunities end there, the back of the book is filled with the titles of other books to expand the lessons as well as a variety of websites to explore including the coordinates to find the BEN on Google Earth.

The underlying messages of this book are of both of the importance of conservation and one of empowerment. The Children’s Eternal Rainforest (El Bosque Eterno de los Niño’s) is so named because a second grade class in Sweden saved it in 1987.  While studying tropical rainforests the children learned about the challenges many forests face, competition for land, poachers, deforestation. They wanted to do something to make a difference, and they did, organizing a series of fund-raisers their goal to earn enough money to buy and protect 25 acres.  The word traveled quickly, inspiring other students to get involved.  By the end of the first year (with the help of matching funds by the Swedish Government) the students had raised $100,000 and it didn’t stop there.  The movement continued to grow and children from over 44 countries became involved.

dawnpubad2011So often in our culture, children especially feel like their voices and actions don’t matter.  This book shows what a big difference a group of children can have not just in their own community, but in the world. We spent quite a bit of time talking about ways that our family could make a difference as a result of this book. It will become my go-to resource when I hear the echoes of “I can’t do it” creeping into the language of my children. I hope this book becomes an anchor book in children’s libraries everywhere.  At less then $10 it would make a great gift for children in your life and could be lovingly combined with a donation to a favorite organization.  With all the issues facing this and coming generations the engagement of our youth is of vast importance and this book brings that home. Kids really can change the world!

Emily LeRoux lives in Maple Grove, Minnesota with her husband and two increasingly eco-literate children.