What young reader doesn’t like an adventure? And Jace certainly has one when he enters the Forbidden Forest to retrieve a lost baseball. His best friend Rocco urges him not to go, but Jace thinks he can go right in, and come right back out. But that does not happen, and that’s where his adventure begins.
Jace is initially scared when he encounters two dinosaurs—a Tyrannosaurus Rex, and a baby Pterodactyl who hasn’t yet learned to fly. His fears are soon dismissed, and the story becomes one of friendship and caring. Jace helps his new friends solve some problems, and they help him find his way home again.
But more importantly, Jace learns that things aren’t always what they seem to be, and that just because you come from a different place, you can still be friends with someone who is not like you. When Jace returns to the real world, he shares his journey with Rocco and they change the name of the Forbidden Forest to the Friendly Forest.
Chapter books, like Jace’s Adventure in the Forbidden Forest, provide teachers with an opportunity to reinforce some basic standards, like: identify details in text including who, what, when and where; identify words and images that evoke feelings such as happiness or surprise; and identify characters, settings, main problem, and sequence of events in fiction.
Another meaningful discussion could include how people from diverse backgrounds can make contributions. Even though dinosaurs are not human beings, they can be a metaphor for people from different cultures, stimulating a discussion about ethnic diversity and not judging a book by its cover. Jace learns that lesson during his visit to this magical place.
D.W. Harper includes simple illustrations adding a touch of whimsy to this engaging story.
Jane R. Wood is the author of Schools: A Niche Market for Authors and an award-winning series of chapter books: Voices in St. Augustine, Adventures on Amelia Island, Trouble on the St. John’s River, Ghosts on the Coast, and Lost in Boston.