4 out of 4 stars
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Amelia and the Magic Jungle by A. M. Overett describes the adventures of a young girl who accidentally tumbles down a waterfall and, by doing so, embarks on a magical journey. She is mysteriously transported to an enchanted jungle where she meets a menagerie of creatures, some well-meaning, some not. These characters try to educate her in the ways of the world, in the classrooms of what they call the University of Society (US for short).
Amelia’s intellect and potential are challenged as she graduates from class to class, covering topics such as language, science, psychology, history, and religion, to name a few. There are also practical lessons in politics and law, as well as subtle life lessons on the importance of teamwork and avoiding bad influences. All her instruction is given by a colorful assortment of animals: a python, a tortoise, a toucan, a flamingo, as well as a kindly and inspirational gorilla. Each has a unique personality and teaches in their own peculiar way, but they all have something invaluable to contribute.
In a story mildly reminiscent of Alice through the Looking Glass, our heroine learns the foundations of knowledge from her jungle friends. The encouragement is that anyone with the right education and mindset can be anything they choose in life, and should use their talents to help others and serve their community. The emphasis is on “US” rather than “you” or “me”, as the University of Society’s acronym implies.
My favorite character by far was Professor Sarah Silverback the gorilla, who was maternal and kind towards Amelia. It was she who led Amelia through the final stages of her education. Her field of expertise was vast, covering history, geography, archaeology, and religion. I really appreciated the sensitive way she presented the major religions of the world, encouraging Amelia to investigate them further and make up her own mind about them. The lessons in politics and justice were likewise well-delivered, and the author should be commended on including such topics in this book.
I did find the story dragged on a little too long. Within the cycle of the narrative, I would have expected Amelia’s adventure to end shortly after Professor Silverback’s lesson. However, there was always just “one more thing” for her to learn, and then there were additional scenes (such as a football match between the jungle animals) that prolonged the story even further. I got the impression that the author was trying to cover too much ground in the space of this short book. A little editing towards the end might serve in keeping readers engaged until the very last page.
There were a few small punctuation errors in the form of missing quotation marks, and also some minor formatting issues. There was only one spelling mistake that I noted in the word “spay” instead of “spray”, but other than that, the editing was excellent. In addition, the writing flowed beautifully and the use of evocative descriptions such as “political pachyderm” and “reality-challenged zebra” made me smile.
I think this book would find its optimum readership amongst girls in the teen and young adult age group. Since the main character is female, I think boys may have a hard time relating to this story. This is a pity as the lessons could still benefit them enormously. As a reader of young adult fiction, I was thoroughly charmed by this book, and award it a rating of 4 out of 4 stars. It is fun and readable, yet has the dual purpose of encouraging curiosity and laying the foundations for deeper learning later on. In addition, it teaches the importance of asking the right questions to gain a greater understanding of the world in which we live.
Amelia and the Magic Jungle
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