Great Illustrated Books

Zebra Forest

By Adina Rishe Gewirtz

Candlewick, 2013
Pages : 208
Suggested Ages: 9 and Up
ISBN: 9780763660413

Eleven-year-old Annie and her younger brother Rew live deep in the Zebra Forest, so named for the dense growth of the dark oak and white birch trees. They live with their unconventional grandmother and spend their days sharing books and creating stories about the parents they have never known. Then a stranger appears at their door one day, and everything about their world is upended.          
Annie has a few vague memories of her mother, who left when Annie was too young to really remember. But of her father, she has none. What she has are the stories she and her brother imagined: he died a heroic death as a pilot, a secret agent, a pirate. She does not yet know that he has been serving a sentence at the prison just on the other side of Zebra Forest. When there is a riot at the prison, Andrew Snow escapes, and by a bizarre coincidence, seeks refuge at his family’s home. While he holds them hostage for several days, Annie and Rew discover that Andrew Snow is not at all the man they thought he was. Though Annie has several opportunities to escape and ask for help, she opts to stay, all at once fascinated by, curious about, and terrified by the reality of her father.

During the time that the family is sequestered in their home, Annie and Rew are forced to rethink everything they have believed about their family, their past, and themselves. They learn about their mom and why she left, about their “Gran” and why she has such disdain for Andrew Snow, and about this curious man that is their dad (who cooks, cleans, and cares for them in ways their Gran never has). Above all, they learn the true meaning of family, forgiveness and redemption.

Zebra Forest is an emotionally compelling story with complicated family dynamics and interesting well-developed characters. It’s not too scary, not quite a thriller, but has just the right amount of suspense to hook kids into this a quiet, dark, and mysterious book and keep them turning the pages.

Reviewed by : KSD


If you love this book, then try:

Balliett, Blue. Hold Fast. Scholastic, 2013.

Graff, Lisa. A Tangle of Knots. Philomel, 2013.

Saunders, Kate. The Whizz Pop Chocolate Shop. Delacorte Books for Young Readers, 2013.

Shurtliff, Liesl. Rump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin. Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2013.

Critics have said

"Gewirtz veers away from melodrama, deftly capturing nuances of family dynamics in spare prose."
School Library Journal

"An emotionally honest family story with an ending that��s hopeful without being implausibly upbeat."
Publishers Weekly