Ren lives an enviable life in lush Puerto Rico. He spends his days chasing dragons and unicorns in the rich tropical landscape, wild with imagination. But his ideal situation is upturned when he and his mom move to a new city, which Ren finds “too loud and too fast” as the familiar noises of his old home are “replaced by the mechanical creaks and beeps and buzzes of a place filled with people and progress.” Then Ren meets Ava, who lives above him and delights in the wild of the city the way Ren delighted in his rural jungle. Though their friendship has a bumpy start, eventually Ava helps Ren discover the beautiful, imaginative, magical “wild” of his new home. In her author debut, Hoang delivers a masterful story about change, resilience, friendship, and the power of imagination to make the everyday magic and wild, no matter the setting. To her poetic prose—”All the bits of nature and magic a life lived on the edge of wild offers”—she adds playful, colorful colored pencil and watercolor illustrations filled with details to discover in both her tropical and urban settings. She also effectively communicates Ava and Ren’s feelings through the illustrations—as Ava takes Ren exploring the city, she looks at the rainbow on one side of the street while Ren looks at the garbage on the other side, perfectly capturing the story’s conflict. The last two-page spread, when Ava finally helps Ren see the wild of his new home, is particularly imaginative and splendid.
Zara González Hoang grew up in a little bungalow in the great white North. Surrounded by snow she spent her days dreaming, doodling and listening to the colorful stories of her Dad’s life growing up in Puerto Rico while trying to figure out where she fit in as a mixed-race Latina Jew in a sea of Scandinavians. (She’s still figuring that out.) These days, she lives outside of DC in a magical suburban forest with her Mad Man husband, human-shaped demon and curly coated corgi. She still spends her days dreaming and doodling, but now instead of listening to stories, she’s starting to tell some of her own. Her first picture book, Thread of Love written by Kabir and Surishtha Sehgal was published in 2018 by Beach Lane Books / Simon and Schuster. Her Author/Illustrator debut, Piece of Wild will be published by Dial Books/Penguin Randomhouse in the Spring of 2020.
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