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Reviewed by Nova Gibson, Librarian, Massey Primary School, Auckland
Opening sentence
An explosion of glass splinters the night air.
The book opens with the splintering of glass, and the readers first meet Jack struggling with the grief of losing his father. All Jack can feel at the moment is anger and he joins a group of schoolmates who smash windows, persuade Jack to bunk school, and steal paint.

His mother is an environmental anthropologist who travels away a lot and the two struggle to connect. Jack’s dad was the present parent, but now that he is gone, Jack feels totally bereft.

The first part of the story is an emotional ride set in a city in the northern hemisphere. Ele’s writing cuts to the heart and I didn’t know whether to like or hate the main character, Jack. He acts out, refuses help from caring school staff and won’t communicate with his mum.

Then she springs a surprise on Jack: they are taking a ‘break’; two weeks away. Jack’s resentment increases when he feels his mum betrays him by dragging him on a ‘work’ trip to Brazil. The setting completely changes and with a local family, Jack finds himself on a dangerous adventure in the rainforest. It’s not only the piranhas and bullet ants to beware of, but also the loggers intent on profits.

Ele’s writing is fast-paced, exciting and I read the book in two sittings. I enjoyed learning about different aspects of the life of animals and people in the rainforest. For example; I had no idea bullet ants could pack such a punch.

A lot of the conversation has Portuguese phrases and while most are translated, I had to look a few up. (Page 191) A glossary might be useful.

For most readers, tissues may be handy when reading this book. The book does end with hope though. Jack realises he’s not alone in grief when he finds out Pakoyai has also lost a father. Back home the connection with his mother is growing and he finds a way to use his art in a positive way.

I would put this novel in the hands of any young person struggling with the grief of losing a parent.
Publisher: Pushkin Press
ISBN: 9781782693840
Format: Paperback
Publication: May 2023
Ages: 11-15 years
Themes: Grief, Environmental loss