Monday, January 7, 2019

Review - Yara and Her Mystery Tree

Yara and Her Mystery Tree (Yara, the Rainforest Girl #1)
by Yossi Lapid
illustrated by Joanna Pasek
Date: 2019
Publisher: Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA)
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 40
Format: e-book
Source: NetGalley

Yara lives with her Mama in the lush Amazon rainforest gathering berries and mushrooms and happily sharing her love with friendly animals and plants. One day when Yara falls seriously ill, the forest finds a way to return the love and save Yara’s life. Written in rhyme and stunningly illustrated by Joanna Pasek, this is the introductory book to a new picture-book series showing children how all living things on our beautiful planet depend on one another.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

This is a tricky one. I sort of liked it... but it's kind of problematic, thematically speaking.

The illustrations are lovely, and are my favourite part of the book. The story really let me down, though. Right from the start--in a book that one would think would be about respecting nature, given the setting--we run into problems. There's a plant trying to grow in the forest, but it can't get enough light because of the canopy, and so it's dying. What's the problem? A human girl comes along and assumes she knows better than nature. She digs up the plants and moves it somewhere else. Maybe that plant was dying for a good reason. What if transplanting it and helping it thrive introduces a virulent invasive species into a location where it causes problems? Nature usually knows what it's doing. Humans--as we've proven over and over again--don't.

The second issue I have with this book is that Yara goes on to develop some vague, rare, potentially deadly illness that only this unnamed and possibly imaginary tree can fix. I would have rather seen this part of the story be more realistic. Why couldn't she have had a real disease? Why couldn't she have been healed by real rainforest medicine?

As for the technical aspects of the book... well, they're a mixed bag. The story is told in rhyming verse, but it's a bit clunky in places. And the font that was chosen for all the text makes the whole book look self-published and really amateur... which is a shame because, as I said before, the illustrations are really quite nice. I don't know if they're all that accurate, but Yara and the animals are cute, and the whole thing is so colourful and verdant that it really makes the rainforest shine.

So, overall, this is just an average picture book for me. The illustrations are great, but they're dragged down by a problematic premise and lacklustre verse.

Thank you to NetGalley and Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA) for providing a digital ARC.

Premise: 2/5
Meter: 3/5
Writing: 3/5
Illustrations: 4/5
Originality: 3/5

Enjoyment: 2/5

Overall: 2.71 out of 5

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