Are you looking for a fantastic read this summer? Then look no further as we definitely have the book for you. This is a fantastic middle-grade adventure - a Caribbean masterclass of storytelling - by debut children's author Alake Pilgrim. Zo and the Forest of Secrets will be the first book as part of a new series which will be published on 2nd June 2022 by inclusive publisher Knights Of. The story is based on the island of Trinidad & Tobago which gives this plot a wonderful backdrop to base the story. It really gives it a multicultural infusion as it breathes life into the story with descriptive panache.
The story has been inspired by the idea that "every child deserves to be the hero of their own stories". Lenny Henry raised a similar point recently stating that he wanted to create characters that young children could identify with as this was something he found difficult as a child. As an avid young reader, he often wanted to go on a fantasy journey with a character that looked and felt like him. Therefore, it's important that books provide children with a sense of enjoyment but also enable them to identify with the story whether this is through the characters, settings, story themes/topics etc. In this book, the author reflects the connections with different countries to her own island of Trinidad & Tobago.
There are a number of topical and important themes that are covered in this book such as family, friendship and eco-consciousness. However, what I really loved about this book is its brilliance and uniqueness - it's 100% bonkers. The story starts with a shroud of mystery and strange unexplained visions. When Zo finds a lost boy called Adri drowning in the river, she must uncover the mysteries of the forest to find their way home. The journey brings more surprises including a spider with a mechanical twitching arm called Cap'n Peg! This character actually brought tears to my eyes as I was laughing so much. I'm really looking forward to more antics in the next book through the eyes of the main character and their unusual cluster of spiders
The synopsis does not really do this book justice in my opinion. What the story has to tell is a different narrative. It's a read for a seasoned armchair explorer willing to undertake a fantasy exploration through an exotic forest. Expect to encounter an abandoned facility that may hold a few answers whilst encountering a cavern full of disturbing nightmarish creatures called X. You'll dance, skip and hop from one dangerous situation to another whilst smelling the flora and fauna along the way. You'll fully immerse yourself in colour and song as you join one of the best imaginative fantasy journeys this year. Take my advice and give this book a read. You can pre-order from all good bookshops.