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Forest World

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About The Book

From award-winning author Margarita Engle comes a lively middle grade novel in verse that tells the story of a Cuban-American boy who visits his family’s village in Cuba for the first time—and meets a sister he didn’t know he had.

Edver isn’t happy about being shipped off to Cuba to visit the father he barely knows. The island is a place that no one in Miami ever mentions without a sigh, but travel laws have suddenly changed, and now it’s a lot easier for divided families to be reunited. Technology in Cuba hasn’t caught up with the times, though, and Edver is expecting a long, boring summer.

He was NOT expecting to meet a sister he didn’t know he had. Luza is a year older and excited to see her little brother, until she realizes what a spoiled American he is. Looking for something—anything—they might have in common, the siblings sneak onto the Internet, despite it being forbidden in Cuba, and make up a fake butterfly. Maybe now their cryptozoologist mother will come to visit. But their message is intercepted by a dangerous poacher, and suddenly much more than their family is at stake. Edver and Luza have to find a way to overcome their differences to save the Cuban jungle that they both have grown to love.


Forest World Family Disaster EDVER
Miami, Florida, USA

I thought I was prepared

for any emergency. Fires, floods,

hurricanes, rogue gunmen, bombs,

and worse—we’ve covered them all,

in scary student emergency training drills.

We’ve shut down the school,

painted our faces with fake blood,

and practiced carrying one another

to an imaginary helicopter, moaning

and screaming with almost-real fear

as we pretended to survive crazy


Nowhere in all that madness

did I ever imagine being sent away

by Mom, to meet my long-lost dad

in the remote forest where I was born

on an island no one in Miami

ever mentions without sighs,

smiles, curses, or tears . . .

but travel laws have suddenly changed,

the Cold War is over, and now it’s a lot easier

for divided half-island, half-mainland

Cuban American families

to be reunited.

Mom is so weirdly thrilled,

it seems suspicious.

From the moment she announced

that she was sending me away to meet Dad,

I could tell how relieved she felt to be getting

a relaxing break from her wild child,

the troublemaker—me.

If she would listen, I would argue

that it’s not my fault a racing bicycle

got in my way while I was playing a game

on my phone and skateboarding at the same time.

That’s what games are for—entertainment, right?

Escape, so that all those minutes spent gliding

home from school aren’t so shameful.

As long as I stare into a private screen,

no one who sees me


I’m alone.

Tap, zap, swipe,

the phone makes me look as busy

as someone with plenty of friends,

a kid who’s good at sports

instead of science.

In that way, I’m just like Mom, who hardly ever

looks up from her laptop on weekends.

She just keeps working like a maniac,

trying to rediscover lost species.

She’s a cryptozoologist, a scientist who searches

for hidden creatures, both the legendary ones

like Bigfoot, and others that no one ever sees

anymore, simply because they’re so rare

and shy, hiding while terrorized by hunters,

loggers, and poachers who sell their stuffed

or pinned parts to collectors.


But what if there’s more?

What if Mom’s real reason for peering

into her secret online world

is flirting to meet weird guys

who might not even be

the handsome heroes

shown in their photos . . . ?

What if she’s dating,

and that’s why she needs

to get rid of me, so she can go out

with creeps

while I’m away?

About The Author

Photograph (c) Shevaun Williams

Margarita Engle is the Cuban American author of many books including the verse novels Rima’s RebellionYour Heart, My SkyWith a Star in My HandThe Surrender Tree, a Newbery Honor winner; and The Lightning Dreamer. Her verse memoirs include Soaring Earth and Enchanted Air, which received the Pura Belpré Award, a Walter Dean Myers Award Honor, and was a finalist for the YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction, among others. Her picture books include Drum Dream GirlDancing Hands, and The Flying Girl. Visit her at

Product Details

  • Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers (August 29, 2017)
  • Length: 208 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781481490573
  • Ages: 10 - 99

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Raves and Reviews

"The poetic journey is one of rich juxtapositions between the real and the marvelous, technology and nature, science and art, past histories and possible futures. An addition that delicately illustrates the Cuban-American experience through a poetic and scientific lens not often seen."

– Kirkus Reviews, 6/15/17

* "A beautifully written eco-adventure, this is also a thoughtful exploration of the realities faced by families separated by 90 miles and politics.”

– Booklist, Starred Review, July 2017

* “An evocative verse novel told in alternating voices . . . Filled with butterflies, hummingbirds, forest creatures, and fossils, Engle’s affirming story is valuable both for the way the sciences inform it and for its careful attention to the relations between the Cubans who stayed and those who left the island . . . Realistically satisfying.”

– Publishers Weekly, Starred Review, June 12, 2017

"This well-timed and accessible work of eco-fiction should readily find its way into classrooms and libraries as an opening to learning more about the familial ties between the United States and one of its nearest neighbors."

– School Library Journal, August 2017

“Through alternating chapters, Edver’s and Luza’s stories are told in Engle’s signature verse style. The importance of biodiversity in Cuba, and how Cubans are trying to save their own flora and fauna from tourists, poachers, and climate change, are important themes; as are Cuban families divided by politics.”

– The Horn Book, September/October 2017

“Engle’s accessible text shimmers with affection for rural life in Cuba, its wildlife, and people, and the book offers shrewd observations about the families spread between Cuba and Miami, separated by only a few miles and a huge cultural gulf. . . . The exploration of the reclamations of endangered species and the picture of a very different life in Cuba are intriguing.”

– BCCB, September 2017

Awards and Honors

  • CBC/NCSS Notable Social Studies Trade Book
  • Green Earth Book Award
  • Kansas NEA Reading Circle List Intermediate Title
  • Walter Dean Myers Honor Book

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More books from this author: Margarita Engle