This month I finally had the pleasure of reviewing three very new books from fellow independent authors. All have a strong conservation focus and blend adventure with education, so I thought they were a great fit for the Living Wild Side by Side mission! You can find my reviews on Goodreads and Amazon, too, but here is where I’m fleshing them out.
Orrcry (Annie Tucker, 2019)
I did not want this story to end. It started out promising and more than delivered with great pacing, solid characters, and beautifully written descriptions. A light touch of fantasy, including some magic, rounded out just a really good coming-of-age story all around.
Orrcry starts with Amaroo, a small animal on a small patch of land, eager to grow up and finally learn about his own identity. He’s not like the wildcat who has raised him, but he’s not like any other animal, either — except as prey for bigger, toothier animals. Amaroo soon learns that the world beyond his garden shed is much bigger and more dangerous than he ever realized.
However, he also learns to listen to his own instinct and to develop his own strengths, including an unexpected power he has. That becomes important as he encounters increasingly predatory animals and increasingly difficult choices.
As I wrote in my review, the best children’s books help their readers deal with darker, heavier emotions like grief and fear, as well as themes like bullying and revenge. Tucker’s writing handles these masterfully, building from Amaroo’s tiny home to a much vaster world than he — or the reader — could possibly have anticipated.
One of my favorite things about this book was how true to life I found it for its depiction of the threats wildlife encounter daily from all species, and the consequences. Tucker’s prose expertly helps the reader to relate profoundly to young Amaroo as he learns about himself, his friends and foes alike, and the wider world.
I was delighted to find the setup to a sequel at the end. I hope to read more from Annie Tucker very soon!
The Miss Tree Tales (Deepa Remesh)
These books are valuable for any teacher or homeschooler seeking to add to their science curriculum, especially around plants. “Protect, Sustain, Conserve” Propagation, pest control, and conservation are all addressed in both these books, which are at their strongest when describing how human farmers have relied on mutualism for each. “Seeds for Thought” lessons — interspersed between chapters in Book #1, and placed at the end of Book #2 — offer activities and opportunities for additional learning beyond the books.
Mighty Coconuts (Book #1, 2016)
This information-rich first book in its series balances education, fun, and even a little bit of danger. After Mia and Nik encounter “mysterious” Miss Tree, a range of plant-based technology helps them to time travel on Plant Savers Club missions to learn about the mighty coconut tree and the industry that arose from it.
While the actual adventure does take a bit of time to get going, and the information about the mission technology is somewhat dense, the overall story is strong and gave me a “Magic School Bus” — and “Magic Tree House” — vibe as Mia and Nik time-travel, miniaturized, via a “seed copter” to Kerala, India in both 1890 and 1990.
The kids — and readers — learn not only about how the trees and their parts are used, but also how pre-Industrial Revolution workers ensured the trees’ propagation and survival through other species, and how today’s industry uses coconut products to prevent natural disasters.
Incredible Cacao (Book #2, 2019)
This second entry in the Miss Tree Tales series brings Mia and Nik to two more new times and locations: 1995 Costa Rica, and 2005 Broc, Switzerland. This book follows a similar structure as the first, as the kids learn similar contrasting lessons between small family farming operations and bigger industrial ones.
The series continues with somewhat deeper character development, going deeper into the kids’ worries and interests in this book, and how they balance them with their missions. The lessons about the cacao tree are different, too, with more detail on pests and interventions, and the significance of Fair Trade. There’s a bit of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by the end, and as with the first book, lots of learning!
What have you been reading over the last month or so? What are your favorite books about animals and conservation?