illustrated by Ziyue Chen
Mela is a bold and adventurous girl who thinks nothing of setting off to explore the riverbank on her own. When her brother asks if he can accompany her, she refuses because he has nothing to offer in return. Thus, her journey along the river becomes a cautionary tale. Mela’s boat gets trapped, and she finds herself lost and dependent on the jungle creatures to show her some kindness and direct her home. In a predictable parallel, the animals will only help her if she gives them something. Set near the Ping River in Thailand, this story has the trappings of a contemporary folktale, with a lesson about kindness awaiting Mela and the readers. Cheerful illustrations in a palette of glowing jungle colors offset the perils of a child alone in a forest. Mela’s predicament is happily resolved by a kindly elephant, and she learns to change her opportunistic ways. An author’s note about Thailand provides brief cultural context with explanations about geography, customs, and concepts.