Deep in the lush jungle of the Argentine lives eleven-year-old Carlota, her father Daniel, and a host of animals that are very friendly to the little girl. There are the parrots, the deer and, best of all, the strange little Patagonian hares. Although those little animals don’t really look like a rabbit or any other animal on earth, the peculiar little creatures become dear friends to the isolated Carlota.
The saga of Carlota and her jungle friends opens with a map surrounded by colorful jungle-leafed edging, and begins the tale with a little jungle house somewhere in Argentina where a kind, strong hunter lives with his eleven-year-old daughter Carlota.
They choose to live in the jungle because it's too expensive to live in the city, and so Carlota's lived there since she was five, and has adapted to the quiet yet interesting environment that is her home. She's come to consider her jungle home a "park and a playground and a zoo, all rolled into one." and she has many animal friends - except for the dreaded jungle tigre (more like a jaguar). She's unafraid of this beast because between her brave hunter father and her animal friends, she feels safe and protected - but when her birthday arrives and her father leaves to get her a special gift and doesn't return, Carlota must call on all her resources and her friendships in an act of bravery that could redefine her happy jungle life.
Carlota's Jungle Friends is a portrait of friendship and offers advanced elementary-level picture book readers a fine story of not just courage, but the possibilities of friendship even with animals deemed 'useless' or comical.
A posse of seemingly-ineffectual Patagonian hares, a deadly trap, and a problem that leaves Carlota in charge of her father's fate makes for a moving story that takes some unexpected turns as it heads to its satisfying conclusion.
In the end the lesson revolves not just around courage, but upon the nature of friendships, support systems, and a brand of unexpected cleverness that turns impossible situations into creative solutions.
Kids will need good reading skills or parental read-aloud assistance but both will appreciate a winning story of a birthday like no other. Highly recommended; especially for its bright and fun drawings which are colorful accompaniments to a different kind of friendship story.
- D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Review