cover image Forest World

Forest World

Margarita Engle. Atheneum, $16.99 (208p) ISBN 978-1-4814-9057-3

In an evocative verse novel told in alternating voices, Engle (Lion Island) explores the challenges faced by “half-island half-mainland Cuban American families” after relations soften between the U.S. and Cuba. Eleven-year-old Edver has lived with his mother, a cryptozoologist, in Miami for most of his life. Luza is the 12-year-old sister Edver is surprised to meet when he arrives, alone, in the remote Cuban village of La Selva, from which he and his mother fled 10 years earlier. The siblings, both conflicted about the mother who separated them and abandoned Luza, find common ground in their love for the natural world their parents protect (their father patrols the forest for poachers). Trying to lure their mother to Cuba, the two unwittingly create a dangerous situation they must remedy. Filled with butterflies, hummingbirds, forest creatures, and fossils, Engle’s affirming story is valuable both for the way the sciences inform it and for its careful attention to the relations between the Cubans who stayed and those who left the island. The late danger is fixed rather hastily, but the open-ended conclusion is realistically satisfying. Ages 10–up. Agent: Michelle Humphrey, Martha Kaplan Agency. (Aug.)