Forest World

“I can’t resolve or invent the past. / I need a way to change the future.”

Forest World tells the story of 11-year-old Edver traveling to his birthplace of Cuba for the summer. He meets his father and his 12-year-old sister Luza, who he never knew existed. While Edver struggles to adapt to the new world he has been thrown into, Luza tries to understand him and the mother that left her. As the siblings learn to be friends, they explore the amazing plants and animals that live in the forest their father protects. However, when Edver and Luza accidentally lure a poacher to the forest, they must find a way to stop him and save the place they love.

Written in verse, Forest World reveals the beauty that comes from biodiversity while also warning of the dangers posed by extinction and poaching. For example, throughout the book, Edver reflects on his mother’s job as a cryptozoologist. Her job focuses on finding, studying, and saving endangered Lazarus species, which are species that were once thought to have been extinct but have since been rediscovered. The Lazarus species motif emphasizes how much beauty and uniqueness has already been lost due to human greed, while still providing hope that there are ways to try and counteract the harm that has been done. Edver is greatly inspired by his mother’s conservationist efforts and thus spends a lot of time exploring and learning about the unique wildlife of Cuba. The enthusiastic way he describes the forest and its inhabitants shows how much joy one can feel when they appreciate the world around them. By highlighting the charm and individuality of each species, Edver’s remarks convey that all creatures, no matter how big or small, deserve to be protected simply for how they add to the magnificent biodiversity of the planet.

Not everybody shares this ecocentric mindset, however, as seen with the arrival of the poacher. Although Edver and Luza attempt to fix the poacher situation on their own, in the end, the whole community comes to help them. This epic fight for justice illustrates how collective action is the best way to combat environmental threats. The plan relies on Luza’s artistic talent, Edver’s quick thinking, the elderly neighbors’ lasso skills, and even the pet jutía’s dexterity. Each person was able to contribute to the victory in their own unique way, which shows that poachers can be stopped and that everybody is capable of fighting to make the world a better place.

©2024 ClimateLit (Zach Kunkel with later edits by Alexandra Delacruz)

This novel is also available in Spanish under the title La Selva.

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Publisher: Atheneum Books, 2017

Pages: 188

ISBN: 978-1-4814-9057-3

Audience: Questers (8-13)

Format: Novels, Poetry and Short Stories

Topics: Biodiversity, Biodiversity Loss, Collective Action, Conservation, Cryptozoology, Ecocentrism, Endangered Species, Extinction, Greed, Hope, Lazarus Species, Poaching, Wildlife, Youth Climate Activism

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