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Gorilla Dawn - Paperback

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    AuthorGill Lewis
    LanguageEnglish
    Publication Date42250
    Editorial ReviewA child soldier and a park ranger's son rescue an infant gorilla. Binding together the world's need for columbite-tantalite for its electronic devices, the fate of lowland gorillas in the Democratic Republic of Congo's forests, the importance of park rangers, and the life of a young female kadogo, or child soldier, Lewis reminds her readers how strongly connected humans are to the natural world. "If we lose our love of it, then we lose everything." Imara, the "spirit child" of the Black Mamba's guerilla group, is already lost. Severely scarred on her face by her captor, she believes she harbors a demon. The rebels believe she has supernatural powers and can protect them. But given the care of the baby gorilla captured for the White Lioness—the foreigner who will also buy the coltan they are mining and the book's only significant white character—she begins a recovery process. It culminates with her helping two other captives, a dead park ranger's son, Bobo, and a Batwa boy, Saka, save the gorilla baby and being saved herself. Typography distinguishes human voices from imagined gorilla thoughts; chapter headings show changing points of view between Imara and Bobo; and the author emphasizes Imara's recovery by giving her a first-person narrative at the end. Suspenseful and emotionally intense, this is eco-fiction at its most appealing. A riveting survival adventure with an important message. (Fiction. 9-14) (Kirkus, STARRED REVIEW 12/1/16) As a child enslaved to a pitiless and greedy rebel leader who rules his desperate band in the jungles of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Imara has accepted a dark voice inside of her so she can survive in the role of the group’s Spirit Child. When the leader establishes an illegal mining operation inside a national forest, a baby gorilla kidnapped by Imara’s fellow child soldiers works its way into the girl’s closed-off heart, exposing her to all the dangers that being vulnerable can bring. Lewis drops readers into this visceral rain forest setting. She vividly follows the axiom of “show, don’t tell,” using short sentences and situational vocabulary while assuming readers will approach the book with basic knowledge about traditional Congolese religious beliefs and cultural practices. Lewis uses notes before and after the story to raise sympathy for the plight of the environment and for gorillas, while leaving truly horrifying atrocities off the page or between the lines. This novel provides middle grade readers just the right distance from the emotional resonance of the characters’ horror-filled experiences, resulting in a work that is gripping and educational though not wholly terrifying, but many may come away with a garbled and incomplete understanding of this region of the world. VERDICT A powerful read on the topic of Congolese rebel groups for intrepid middle schoolers. (School Library Journal January 2017)

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