cover image Forest of the Clouded Leopard

Forest of the Clouded Leopard

Christopher A. Myers. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH), $13.95 (112pp) ISBN 978-0-395-67408-6

Kenchendai, 15, and his family dwell in the rain forest of Borneo, where they practice adat , the precepts underpinning the Iban way of life. Recently, however, Kenchendai has been attending a school run by a British-educated teacher, and he has begun to suspect that his people's beliefs and traditions are based on ignorance. While on a pig hunt one day, he watches in horror as a wild boar attacks and maims his grandfather. When Kenchendai's father refuses to send the old man to a clinic and consults a shaman instead, the teenager blames his parent for Grandfather's death--and then undertakes a journey of self-discovery through the rain forest. The Myerses ( McCrephy's Field ) spent a year among the Iban people, and their knowledge and respect is evident. Their narrative carefully incorporates Iban words; they also provide a glossary. But their storytelling is uneven. The first part of the book, focusing on the protagonist's doubts about adat , is oppressive and heavy-handed, while the second part, the lyrical trek through the forest, differs so greatly in its tone and its perspective as to render the opening chapters even less convincing. Ages 10-14. (Apr.)