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Reviewed by Emily-Jane Hills Orford for Readers' Favorite
Folotjing is a magical creature that lives in the forest. He is a kind, caring creature, but not one to instantly become a hero. He cares for his environment, cleaning the waters around him of the refuse dumped by humans. He is the finest example of someone who knows how to recycle with a purpose: his recent find being a lonely shoe floating away, a shoe that he believes will make a fine boat for him. A good thing, too, because one night, hearing cries of fear and agony, he takes his shoe-turned-boat onto the water and rescues a frightened kitten trapped in a sealed box. Folotjing nurtures and cares for those around him, even the bear whose den floods in a horrendous storm and a frightened wolf with nowhere else to go. But that’s not all – this small creature, who cares for everything and everyone around him, so full of peace, battles the elements to save those less fortunate. Yes, Folotjing might be an unlikely hero, but he is a hero, nonetheless.
Rio N Cortez’s picture book story, The Magnificent Adventures of Folotjing and Friends: Guardians of a Forest, is a heartwarming, tender story. Told in rhyming verse and with spectacular illustrations (I love the swirling, Gauguin-like skies), the plot follows Folotjing’s travels and adventures in the forest. The language is, for the most part, simple and lyrical which will appeal to young readers. There are some big words in this story, but young readers are always up to the challenge as they strengthen their reading skills. Having an adult read with them will assist in learning these big words. The message is subtle: take care of the world and other living creatures around you.
The story also confronts the difficult topic of loss, as Folotjing learns to part with his rescued kitten and mourns a friend that even Folotjing’s magic cannot save. He has another difficult lesson to learn. And, later, as he snuggles in for a good slumber amongst friends, the bear, the wolf, and the eaglet, he realizes that sorrow hurts, but “family is proof that love will give you what magic cannot.” Isn’t that the most important message: that love is stronger than any kind of magic, because love, in itself, is magic.