Zebra Forest

by Adina Rishe Gewirtz

Annie and her little brother Rew live outside a small, worn town and love playing... read more

Annie and her little brother Rew live outside a small, worn town and love playing in the woods they've nicknamed Zebra Forest because the birches and oaks look like stripes from a distance. Their father is dead. Their mother abandoned them. If Gran, who struggles with depression, isn't always reliable, Annie, at eleven, has learned to be. Annie and Rew learn of the nearby prison riot and breakout in a startling way: the appearance of a prisoner in their home, who effectively takes them hostage. But Gran recognizes him, and when the children understand who he is, everything they thought they knew about their family unravels. Annie has spent years fantasizing what her father, Andrew, would have been like. Faced with the reality of him, she must reconcile the two. He is desperate and therefore potentially dangerous, and yet there's more to him than desperation and she's almost never truly afraid. Rew, meanwhile, is angry for many reasons. For him, things are as black and white as the nearby trees and he's eager to find a way to turn Andrew in. Debut novelist Adina Rishe Gewirtz demands a huge leap of faith in asking readers to accept the coincidence that an escaped prisoner unwittingly ends up at the home of his mother and children, but it's a leap that's worth it. Her narrative is taut with emotion and yet her storytelling is nuanced in every other way, with characters that are vivid and complicated, and worth believing in. (Ages 9-13)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2014

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