In the forested wilderness of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Imara is a child soldier, or kadogo
, held captive by a gang of murderous rebels. In her role as Spirit Child, she "turns enemy bullets into rain," or so the rebels believe, keeping them safe as they raid villages and evade government troops. When Black Mamba, leader of the gang, sets up a mine for coltan, a mineral essential for "every computer and cell phone in the world
," his buyer wants a baby gorilla as part of the deal. The gang locates a nearby gorilla family, kills the great silverback, and steals his baby for the sale.
Meanwhile, 14-year-old Bobo is searching for his father, a wildlife park ranger who disappeared while trying to protect these same gorillas. When Bobo stumbles into the Mamba camp, he, too, is enslaved by the rebels. Bobo continues to seek clues about his father even as he teaches Imara how to care for the gorilla baby. Despite intense danger, both he and Imara know they must return the gorilla to the wild.
In Gorilla Dawn
, author (and veterinarian) Gill Lewis (One White Dolphin
) provides a microcosm of human interconnectedness with the planet, and an author's note explains how the forests drive global weather patterns and regulate air and water quality. On top of the eco-perspective, Lewis infuses her novel with excitement and suspense, as the kadogo
grapple with death on a daily basis. Amidst the brutality, it is the tenderness growing in Imara as she opens her heart to the baby gorilla that distinguishes this powerful, multifaceted story. --Lynn Becker, blogger and host of Book Talk, a monthly online discussion of children's books for SCBWI Discover:
In this suspenseful middle-grade novel, a girl enslaved by a Congolese gang learns to be as brutal as her captors--until a baby gorilla is brought into camp.--Shelf Awareness "2/3/17 "