Kalima: The Secret of the Jungle by Nestor Eguez is a chapter book about a zebra that is perfect for preteens. Kalima is the last descendant of a very special line of Zebras that has been around for a very long time. This kind of Zebra is well known for being protectors of the herd, and always staying alert. She lives in the jungles of Kenya, where she has recently been made an orphan due to a lion attack that killed off her parents. Her grandmother becomes her caretaker, as she is an old and wise Zebra who holds great knowledge. During the night her grandmother tells her stories and legends of her ancestors. These stories entertain Kalima very much. As Kalima grows, she realizes she is different from the other zebras, as she cannot run very fast and her sense of smell isn’t strong. Her grandmother tries to convince Kalima that she is special and will find her gifts, but as of yet, Kalima has yet to be convinced of what her true calling really is.
The first of a trilogy, this book introduces us to Kalima and the world in which she lives. The length of the book is perfect for younger readers, and the pace of the narrative builds upon itself in just the right manner. Kalima is the kind of character that children will be able to relate with easily, as she is trying to find her place in the jungle, just as young people are aiming to learn about themselves and find out who they are destined to be. Although there were no illustrations included in the copy of the book we received, the colorful videos that tell portions of the story that the author has posted on YouTube make a nice addition to the tale.