“My brother and my friend in Jungledrop taught me that worlds are not built by people of power!” she cried. “Worlds are built by people who care! Kingdoms go on because kindness goes on.” (244)

Fox and Fibber Petty-Squabble are twins and bitter rivals whose rich, swindling parents expect one of them to save the family businesses. Although no rain has fallen worldwide for months, the twins “don’t plan to lift a finger to help the environment or other people” (20). These unlikely heroes are whisked by magical train to the amazing rainforest of Jungledrop, one of the Unmapped Kingdoms secretly responsible for the Earth’s weather. There they learn that the drought is caused by a megalomaniac harpy, an immortal bird-woman who is brutally extracting magic from Jungledrop’s plants and creatures until there is no thunderberry ink left to paint rain scrolls. The twins must set aside selfish motives and work together to find the Forever Fern that can save both worlds, respecting the humans and nonhumans who aid them in this fast-paced fantasy quest.

The quest in Jungledrop is an emotional journey for its entitled child protagonists, making the book a fun springboard for conversations about climate literacy and the attitude of the one percent. The twins’ parents teach them that “so long as we have money—which we will always have because things always work out in the end for those who stamp all over other people—we will always have access to water” (20). Fox learns in Jungledrop that this is wrong for two reasons: there won’t be any water for anyone if the harpy isn’t stopped, and kindness gets her more help than domineering rudeness. The power-hungry harpy holds a fantasy mirror up to the twins’ wealth-fixated parents, prompting an illuminating discussion about the one percent. The harpy’s ecocide in Jungledrop indirectly damages Earth, though no one on Earth understands the cause—a good illustration of interconnectedness and slow violence. Fox realizes that “everything and everyone was connected, really”: suffering humans, magical creatures needing respect, and plants that “kept kingdoms and worlds alive” (162). The twins model how children might develop climate literacy and recognize nonhuman personhood by developing relationships with animal companions (notably a parrot who voices everyone’s feelings and panthers who rule Jungledrop), and by overcoming plant blindness to learn more about magical plants, especially through foraging. Ultimately, the chosen-one fantasy trope in Jungledrop stresses individual action to save the world, but the story’s messages about working together and kindness mean it can be read as what could happen if the wealthy elite take part in collective action.

©2024 ClimateLit (Catherine Olver)


Publisher: Simon & Schuster, 2020

Pages: 275

ISBN: 978-1-4711-7368-4

Audience: Ages 8-13

Format: Novels

Topics: Animal Companions, Biodiversity, Climate Literacy, Collective Action, Deforestation, Ecocide, Foraging, Individual Action, Interconnectedness, Non-Human Personhood, One Percent, Plant Blindness, Plants, Rainforests, Slow Violence