I’ve been sitting on this book for nearly a couple months now; life events have conspired to keep me away from my blog for a while. But things have settled down a bit so it’s time to get back to business! I came across The Jungle of Jojee by Amy McMahon while browsing Instagram some time ago, and she offered to send me a copy for review!
The book opens by introducing us to the Jungle of Jojee, a vibrant rainforest full of many different prehistoric creatures; “almost one for every letter of the alphabet!” A brief introduction of each species follows, many of which are surprisingly unique for a children’s storybook. Alongside the usual Mesozoic denizens, we also find animals like the Permian Lystrosaurus (if you’re unfamiliar with it, it’s the star of the online runner game The Big Die), as well as a Xiphactinus and a Helicoprion in the local lagoon! As I’m sure I’ve hinted before, I always enjoy seeing this strange whorl-toothed shark pop up in unexpected places.
After meeting all the different denizens of the Jungle of Jojee, the narrative proper picks with a small Microraptor named Mario. He spends most of his days sulking about, upset at his status as the smallest dinosaur in the jungle. One day, he begins to stumble across various fellow residents of the jungle, each with some ailment they can’t fix themselves. Without really thinking about it, Mario helps each one, but continues on his mopey way before he notices their improved mood. Finally, after he has unknowingly spread good will and happiness all throughout the jungle, all the other creatures gather to celebrate him, helping him realize his small size was not such a negative thing after all.
Watercolor illustrations by Alina Shabelnyk accompany each page, and while not technical paleoart by any means, manages to get hit the right point of most of her subjects better than many children’s books I could name. If I had to nitpick, the lack of tusks on the Lystrosaurus and the parrot green rather than a raven black of Mario the Microraptor stuck out most to me, but I suppose there’s room for artistic license there.
The Jungle of Jojee has a nice moral about how spreading joy among others inevitably comes back to benefit oneself, and the personal traits you may deride yourself for may in fact put you in a position to better help those you happen to meet. The long introduction with the list of dinosaurs that live in the jungle seemed a little superfluous and perhaps distracts from the upcoming story a little, but I know from personal experience that youngsters enjoy seeing as many different dinosaurs as possible, so the target audience likely won’t care if it isn’t really a necessary part of the plot.
If you like to purchase a copy of The Jungle of Jojee for yourself, you can purchase it in 3 different formats over at Amazon: as a physical paperback, an ebook, or an audiobook. You can find out more about author Amy McMahon at her website, Amy McMahon Books, where you can also find additional resources related to The Jungle of Jojee, such as ebook and audiobook translations in Arabic, Albanian, and Polish! Now that’s a much appreciated resource you don’t see often enough! If you’re looking for an uplifting story about dinosaurs book for your little ones, be sure to give The Jungle of Jojee a look!