3 out of 4 stars
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An orangutan named Ponga lives contentedly at the zoo. She finds out that her family in Indonesia is in trouble; they're not just losing their home, but they've lost some family members as well. Determined to help, Ponga packs her bag and sets off to Borneo to see what she can do to help her family. With the help of a man named Badar, she finds her cousin Indah, who tells her about the damage that the palm oil industry has done to the rainforest and their family.
Ponga Visits Her Orangutan Family is a children's book by Lisa LaRue-Baker that is meant to educate the reader about both orangutans and how they have been affected by the palm oil industry. The author doesn't insist that we abandon palm oil altogether, but that we only buy from sustainable palm oil suppliers. At the end, there's a list of facts about orangutans, how the palm oil industry is affecting the rainforest, and why it's important to choose a sustainable supplier. She also includes a few resources with more information about orangutans and how we can help.
There are 22 pages, and each page has text on top of a full-page drawing. Christiane Heide did the illustrations, and they're vibrant and full of playful details. For example, when Ponga is packing her bag, she has a list of things she needs to bring, with items like "blankets" and "bubble baths." The items she brings leads to a cute interaction between Ponga and Indah where they are both baffled by how the other lives.
While the book is educational and intends to send a powerful message, it never feels preachy or aggressive. It doesn't condemn; it provides alternatives and other ways you can help. I think this book could inspire children to try and do their part, and be a gentle reminder for parents to think about the products they're buying.
I would probably recommend this book to children around the ages of 3- to 8-years-old. There's quite a bit of text, so the youngest readers may have difficulty paying attention. However, the whimsical illustrations might be enough to keep them fully engaged. There's no rhyming, but the language is simple; the most complex words are the names of places, people, and fruit (like durian fruit). In the list of facts, you'll come across other words that children likely won't be familiar with.
Unfortunately, I found over ten errors. While most of these are minor errors, like improper capitalization or separating compound words, that's still a high number for a 22-page book. Regrettably, I have to give this amazing book only 3 out of 4 stars because of them. I loved the illustrations and that the author was able to deliver an important message in a way that's palatable and entertaining for children (and adults).
After another round of editing, I believe this would be a fabulous book for early education teachers. I think it would be easy to come up with some activities to learn more about chimpanzees, the rainforest, conservation efforts, etc.
Ponga Visits Her Orangutan Family
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