The Barnes & Noble Review
New York Times bestselling novelist Isabel Allende tries her hand at writing for younger audiences in a thrill-seeking novel set in the Amazon rainforest.
After Alexander Cold's mother is stricken with cancer, his parents send the boy to stay with his gruff grandmother, Kate. A writer for International Geographic, Kate whisks Alex off to the Amazon, where she's to research a story about "a gigantic, possibly humanoid creature" that's celebrated in local mythology. With a group of explorers and doctors -- including the young Nadia -- they journey down the mystical Amazon, battling anacondas and other hazards. But when Alex and Nadia get recruited for a mission to save the People of the Mist, the visit brings the two face-to-face with a colony of Beasts, legendary creatures whose discovery has long been a goal for courageous adventurers.
Filled with the sights and sounds of a dangerous trip down the Amazon, City of the Beasts is the first in a trilogy. Allende's work will leave her fans anxious to learn more about threatened cultures and efforts to save the rainforest, in a fantasy that's both extraordinary and awe-inspiring.
A 15-year-old accompanies his eccentric grandmother on a writing assignment in South America to search for a legendary nine-foot-tall "Beast." PW said the "action and outcome seem cleverly crafted to deliver the moral, but many readers will find the author's formula successful with its environmentalist theme, a pinch of the grotesque and a larger dose of magic." Ages 10-up. (May) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Allende's foray into young adult literature brings a heady dose of her personal brand of magical realism. A marvelous thread of cultural and environmental themes authenticates this National Geographic-like photoessay about the depths of the Amazon. Leaving his mother's grave illness behind, Alexander finds himself a key member of an international search party tracing a path to locate the Beast of the jungle. Grandmother Kate is suspect right from the outset, when she neither picks up her grandson at the airport nor nurtures him in any manner. She is a crusty caricature of herself, the ultra-feminist photographer. Dr. Torres presents an instructive lesson about recognizing evil. Teen friend, Nadia, is a wonderful partner for Alexander, a.k.a Jaguar. They lead this page-turner with proper judgment, fear, and correct impressions about the real motives of the adults and the natives. Scary adventures involve deaths, kidnapping, and the overpowering noxious odor of the nearby Beast, as the team wrestles with the People of the Mist and nature. Anthropological details are engrossing, the talented use of Spanish vocabulary does not need a glossary, and the mysterious taboos of the Amazon and the force of good and evil all contribute to this exciting fantastical survival tale. An outstanding leisure read, this title can also be recommended to complement social studies units on South America and environmental issues. PLB
Nancy Zachary <%ISBN%>006050918X
Gr 7-10-In her first novel for younger readers (HarperCollins, 2002), Isabel Allende creates an authentic South American world, this time in the Amazon rain forest, and combines it with mythical realms of the imagination. California teen Alexander Cold embarks with his rather stern and prickly grandmother Kate, a writer, on a trek to locate a legendary Yeti-like Beast of the Amazon. An egotistical anthropologist, two photographers, and a guide with a teenage daughter fill out the official party. They are joined by a rich Amazon adventurer with villainous intentions and a doctor whose job supposedly is to carry protective vaccines to any native population. The story develops jungle and expedition details as well as cultural and economic conflicts with a mysterious People of the Mist very well. But the travels of the young people alone into the territory of the People as well as that of the giant Beasts are full of mysticism and fantastic happenings. Just when one twist of the plot seems to be reaching a resolution, two or three more arise, creating layer upon layer of incredible events. Narrator Blair Brown creates subtle voices and distinguishing accents for all the characters. Her rendering of unfamiliar native words is excellent, and this feature will be helpful to listeners who might come to a frustrated full stop at seeing the words in print. Her convincing reading is a real asset. A short appropriate musical passage plays at the beginning and ending of each side of the tape. The lengthy, complex plot may limit the audiobook's appeal. The story is noteworthy for its portrayal of the region and its problems, but unusual in its reliance on the supernatural and mystical. It will appeal to teens with an interest in the rain forest and a taste for the fantastic.-Jane P. Fenn, Corning-Painted Post West High School, Painted Post NY Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.
A moody American teen finds himself up the Amazon without a paddle in this aimlessly meandering and cliché-ridden fantasy. Alex's mother's struggle with cancer has forced him into the care of his grandmother, a writer for International Geographic magazine, which has mounted an expedition into the heart of the rainforest to observe the strange monsters known only as the Beasts. Predictably enough, the expedition team consists of a variety of types, including a beautiful doctor, a dashing guide and his mystical daughter Nadia, an egotistical anthropologist, a sinister Indian aide, and a number of expendable supernumeraries. After the requisite agonizing trip up the longest river in the world, Alex and Nadia are finally ushered by an ancient shaman into the Eye of the World. There they encounter the People of the Mist, a-surprise, surprise-pristine indigenous civilization, who have evolved a symbiotic relationship with their gods, the Beasts. The Beasts, it turns out, are gigantic sloths-leftovers from some prehistoric era that have by dint of their exceptionally slow metabolism and consequently long lives developed some intelligence and even rudimentary language. Alex and Nadia are rechristened for their totem animals (Jaguar and Eagle) and go on perilous spirit quests. The jacket blurb boasts that the novel is "teeming with magical realism"; leaving aside the question of whether magical realism can actually teem, this story, Allende's (Portrait in Sepia, 2001, etc.) first for children, does anything but. There are some fantastic touches, but most of what passes for magical realism seems introduced only for narrative convenience (such as Alex's sudden ability to transcend linguisticbarriers by "listening with his heart"). Other potentially fantastic elements are drearily reduced by pseudo-scientific explanation to the realm of the mundane (such as the true nature of the Beasts). The narrative as a whole suffers from extraordinarily labored language: " 'Remember whom you're speaking to, you little twerp,' the writer calmly interrupted, seizing him firmly by the shirt and paralyzing him with the glare of her fearsome blue eyes." Whether this is the fault of the original writing or the translation from the Spanish is immaterial; this flaw, combined with the general pointlessness of the plot, makes this offering-all 416 pages of it-an excruciating experience. (Fiction. 10+)