New book for teens: In the Trees by Pauline Fisk

British author Pauline Fisk has written this interesting, environment-focused book for teens set in Belize.

Here’s the publisher’s description of the text:
Kid Cato’s come to Belize, on the Caribbean coast. He’s left behind his life in London and is looking for his dad. But what he finds instead is a group of gap year volunteers. They’re just the boring, do-good types he’s always hated, but he’s stuck with them. Stuck with the jungle too – but, by the time it’s done with him, he’ll never be the same. And neither will Kid’s new companions. Living in the trees will change them all.
‘Forest are like lungs. They breathe life into us and make us one. Here we are from worlds apart. And thanks to the forest we’re sharing one life. Where we come from doesn’t matter, or what we once were in the past. It’s what we are now that matters. It’s what we make of ourselves.’
In correspondence with Repeating Islands, Pauline offered some details about the writing of the book and her interest in environmental conservation in Belize:

In 2008 I had an extensive trip around Belize to  research for a novel for young people about gap year volunteering.  I trekked into the jungle of Chiquibul to a remote region on the Belizean/Guatemalan border where I met young teenage volunteers working on a project to protect wild life and trees from poachers.  In my travels around the country, I also visited and stayed with the Kekchi-Mayan people of southern Belize. 

The resulting novel, ‘In the Trees’ (Faber & Faber) tells the story of a young south London boy of Belizean descent who returns to his homeland to find his family but finds a group of young gap year do-gooding volunteers instead – just the sort of people he’d never expect to like.  He and they are thrown together to face challenges and adventures which provide them with a rite of passage into adult life.  The adventure ends with a plane ride home for them, but hard choices for my hero, Kid Cato, who’s beginning to see the world with new eyes.  Does he stay, or does he go?  Is he a Belizean boy or a British one, or is he something else altogether, which he can only find if he strikes out alone? 

As well as being a novel about gap year volunteering and young people growing up into adult life, it’s also a novel about rainforest devastation and the complex nest of reasons behind it, set in a country which is an interesting mix of diverse cultures and races, from the Kekchi-Mayans and Garifuna people, to Creoles, Mestizos,  Taiwanese, Americans and Brits.  Whilst in Belize, interviewing a Health Department official, I asked if there was one single unifying factor that identified all Belizeans, of whatever ethnic background, and the answer I was given was ‘Hope’.  The country had great problems, she said, but Belizean people were full of hope. 

You can find out more about the book by visiting the author’s website at  paulinefisk.co.uk.

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