Zebra Forest

( 10 )

Overview

In an extraordinary debut novel, an escaped fugitive upends everything two siblings think they know about their family, their past, and themselves.

When eleven-year-old Annie first started lying to her social worker, she had been taught by an expert: Gran. "If you’re going to do something, make sure you do it with excellence," Gran would say. That was when Gran was feeling talkative, and not brooding for days in her room — like she did after telling Annie and her little brother,...

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Zebra Forest

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Overview

In an extraordinary debut novel, an escaped fugitive upends everything two siblings think they know about their family, their past, and themselves.

When eleven-year-old Annie first started lying to her social worker, she had been taught by an expert: Gran. "If you’re going to do something, make sure you do it with excellence," Gran would say. That was when Gran was feeling talkative, and not brooding for days in her room — like she did after telling Annie and her little brother, Rew, the one thing they know about their father: that he was killed in a fight with an angry man who was sent away. Annie tells stories, too, as she and Rew laze under the birches and oaks of Zebra Forest — stories about their father the pirate, or pilot, or secret agent. But then something shocking happens to unravel all their stories: a rattling at the back door, an escapee from the prison holding them hostage in their own home, four lives that will never be the same. Driven by suspense and psychological intrigue, Zebra Forest deftly portrays an unfolding standoff of truth against family secrets — and offers an affecting look at two resourceful, imaginative kids as they react and adapt to the hand they’ve been dealt.
From ZEBRA FORESTWe called it the Zebra Forest because it looked like a zebra. Its trees were a mix of white birch and chocolate oak, and if you stood a little ways from it, like at our house looking across the back field that was our yard, you saw stripes, black and white, that went up into green. Gran never went out there except near dusk, when the shadows gathered. She didn’t like to be out in full sunlight usually, and told me once she didn’t like the lines the trees made. Gran was always saying stuff like that. Perfectly beautiful things — like a clean blue sky over the Zebra — made tears come to her eyes, and if I tried to get her to come outside with me, she’d duck her head and hurry upstairs to bed. But then it would be storming, lightning sizzling the tops of the trees, and she’d run round the house, cheerful, making us hot cocoa and frying up pancakes and warming us with old quilts. We had few rules in our house, but keeping out of the Zebra Forest in a storm was one of them.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
As summer vacation starts, 11-year-old Annie has the same three wishes as always: to get taller, to have an adventure, and to meet her father. She’s not holding her breath—nothing ever happens in her tiny town, and although Annie and her younger brother, Rew, spend hours spinning stories about their father, they know he’s dead. They live with their grandmother near a jail, and when an escaped prisoner holds them hostage in their house, two of Annie’s wishes come true in ways she never imagined. Debut author Gewirtz successfully conveys the terror and tedium of being trapped, as well as Annie and Rew’s pain and emotional turmoil over learning their father isn’t who they believed. While the situation may frighten some readers, the matter-of-fact way Annie and Rew make the best of difficult circumstances (beyond being held hostage, their mother is out of the picture, and their grandmother is in and out of touch with reality may be comforting to those whose families don’t match the ideal. An emotionally honest family story with an ending that’s hopeful without being implausibly upbeat. Ages 9–12. (Apr.)
From the Publisher
Gewirtz veers away from melodrama, deftly capturing nuances of family dynamics in spare prose. ... [A]udiences will appreciate this novel’s multilayered characters and touching message of hope and forgiveness.
—School Library Journal (starred review)

Debut author Gewirtz successfully conveys the terror and tedium of being trapped...An emotionally honest family story with an ending that’s hopeful without being implausibly upbeat.
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Children's Literature - Beverley Fahey
At the edge of the Zebra Forest, so named for its dense growth of birch and oak trees, eleven-year old Annie and her little brother Rew live with their Gran. After their mother left them and their father was killed by an angry man, Gran moved to this secluded house in a small town to insure their anonymity. Annie becomes an expert at lying, first to the social worker and then to her teacher because as Gran says anything you do you should do with excellence. In the stillness of the forest Annie weaves elaborate tales about their absent father imagining him as a pirate, a spy, and a fearless pilot. As the summer of 1980 wears on,Gran becomes more brooding and less talkative and Annie is left to provide for herself and Rew. On the night of a raging summer thunderstorm an escapee from the nearby prison breaks into the house and takes the family hostage. During the frightening ordeal that lasts for over a month, the children learn that the man is their father Andrew Snow. While Rew rebels at this news, Annie tries to reconcile the man holding her captive with the one she imagines and wrestles with guilt in her betrayal of Rew as her curiosity about this man named Andrew Snow grows. With Gran's ever-growing silent depression, there is a complete role reversal as the children care for her and become dependent on their father. This compelling and suspenseful, debut novel is a tour de force. It examines the complications that come from telling lies and keeping secrets in a straightforward style that is intense and raw. The thunderstorm is a metaphor for the rage that Rew experiences and Annie is at times both a tender mother and a needy child. At the novel's core is the theme of forgiveness as each of the characters must dig deep within their heart for absolution and acceptance. Reviewer: Beverley Fahey
Library Journal
Annie and her brother, Andrew (“Rew”), live a quiet life in the shelter of the Zebra Forest, an expanse of birch surrounding their Gran’s mean house. Their mother left Annie and Rew with Gran because they were “his idea,” and their father is presumed dead—a heroic figure in Annie’s imagination. Was he a pilot? A pirate? Or a special agent like the negotiators working to free the Americans in Iran, now almost a year in captivity? Then a prison break brings a desperate fugitive to their door, and Annie, Rew, and Gran begin living their own hostage crisis. This compelling debut bares the stark truth about four vulnerable people and at the same time offers them a more hopeful future. An unforgettable story of the ties that bind.

(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Kirkus Reviews
Gewirtz's emotionally intense debut novel about the complications of families offers a perceptive heroine and poetic, impressive prose. In the summer of 1980, 11-year-old Annie and her 9-year-old brother Rew live with their grandmother at the edge of the birch and oak forest they've nicknamed "the Zebra," for its dark and light stripes. Annie shops and pays bills as Gran deteriorates bit by bit, retreating into depression and silence. When the father Annie and Rew believe dead shows up at the door, on the run after a breakout at the nearby state prison, anger, fear and longing envelop the small family. The graceful narrative is articulate and poignant, exploring through Annie's eyes the complex grief of her family's story--the mother who abandoned them, the grandfather who died of a broken heart when his son went to prison, the grandmother who takes the children into her own kind of anonymous witness protection program. A few unlikely elements--the nearly complete isolation of the household for weeks, the awkward expository dialogue between a store clerk and a town resident, Annie's visits to the prison on her own--fade before the strength of the characters and the heartfelt punch of the story. Odd, imperfect and impressive nevertheless, this will appeal to readers who, like Annie and Rew, are a bit beyond their years. (Historical fiction. 10-13)
School Library Journal
Gr 5–8—It's almost summer and 11-year-old Annie Morgan has a small list of things she hopes to accomplish during her vacation: grow tall, have an adventure, and meet her father. Sadly, the last wish is impossible given her father's death in a brutal fight many years before. Annie and her younger brother, Rew, live with their caring, but mentally unstable, grandmother in the backwoods of Sunshine. The siblings pass the time in the "Zebra Forest" of birches and oaks behind their house, weaving elaborate fantasies of their dad as a pirate or secret agent. When a prison escapee barges into their house and holds them hostage, the siblings are shocked to discover that the interloper is their presumed-dead father, Andrew Snow. Gran's fragile state renders her incapable of helping the children process this revelation. Rew lashes out against his captor, refusing to believe that this man is his dad. Annie is torn between siding with her brother and her desire to know their father. Gewirtz veers away from melodrama, deftly capturing nuances of family dynamics in spare prose. Another notable element is the thematic parallel with Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island, which the children read throughout the story. Despite Zebra Forest's slow start, audiences will appreciate this novel's multilayered characters and touching message of hope and forgiveness.—Lalitha Nataraj, Escondido Public Library, CA
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780763660413
  • Publisher: Candlewick Press
  • Publication date: 4/9/2013
  • Pages: 208
  • Sales rank: 97,145
  • Age range: 9 - 12 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.60 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Adina Rishe Gewirtz has worked as a freelance journalist, a high-school tutor, and a business-writing consultant. The author of How to Say It: Business Writing That Works, Adina Gewirtz now coaches writers and spends most of her time focused on her first love, fiction writing. Zebra Forest is her first novel. She lives in Washington, D.C.
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Read an Excerpt

We called it the Zebra Forest because it looked like a zebra. Its trees were a mix of white birch and chocolate oak, and if you stood a little ways from it, like at our house looking across the back field that was our yard, you saw stripes, black and white, that went up into green. Gran never went out there except near dusk, when the shadows gathered. She didn’t like to be out in full sunlight usually, and told me once she didn’t like the lines the trees made. Gran was always saying stuff like that. Perfectly beautiful things — like a clean blue sky over the Zebra — made tears come to her eyes, and if I tried to get her to come outside with me, she’d duck her head and hurry upstairs to bed. But then it would be storming, lightning sizzling the tops of the trees, and she’d run round the house, cheerful, making us hot cocoa and frying up pancakes and warming us with old quilts. We had few rules in our house, but keeping out of the Zebra Forest in a storm was one of them.
Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 10 )
Rating Distribution

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Sort by: Showing all of 10 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 15, 2013

    Lightriver

    Yawns.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 20, 2014

    Zebrapelt

    She pads in and lays down.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 11, 2014

    Jake

    Hi megs

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 10, 2014

    Max

    *lays motionless*

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 14, 2014

    Angel to megs

    Its march 14th and im still waiting for u babe.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 11, 2014

    Megs

    Oh..

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 4, 2014

    Avid Kid and Teen Reader

    I thought this book was a fun and adventurous quick read. Not every book has to be part of a series and drag on forever. This story would be great for kids in middle school looking for a short story that takes your imagination on a ride :)

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 8, 2013

    Apenfire

    Smiled. "Thank you." She murmered.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 15, 2013

    Jess

    Yes it is......

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 8, 2013

    Dan

    Had to wath movie

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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