By: Pam Fong

Published: February 8, 2022

Publisher: Random House Kids


It’s rare to have the main character in a story be a marmot. Marmots are large ground squirrels who prefer living in mountainous areas as well as plains. In ONCE UPON A FOREST we watch a marmot and her bird friend work hard to save their little area of the forest.

This wordless story shares the sadness the marmot feels as she sees her forest home begin to burn from a wildfire. But, she is determined to save it. She and her bird friend work hard to replenish the forest with trees they have rescued from the fires. This mostly black and white, softly illustrated story will well up emotion as the marmot loving cares for and waters the trees. She makes sure to protect them through the winter and hovers nearby as she worries like a mother would over the trees. When spring arrives and her trees are tall enough to offer food to the other animals in the forest, the marmot and her bird friend can finally return home.

The simple illustrations created by Fong elicit many emotions as you feel the sadness and panic from the little marmot and then the joy of watching the trees begin to grow again. The penciled illustrations are simple and yet so lovely, with hints of color added to the leaves or to the flowers in the garden or to the water in the river. With a simple eyebrow, Fong can create a change of emotions from sadness to determination to hope.

I recommend you sit with your child and let them see if they can tell you the story happening on the pages. This allows them to really look closely at the illustrations and create the story in their mind without your input. Then, as you read the story again, you can point out things they may have missed or misunderstood. This not only helps with their vocabulary (yes, even without the words on a page) but also their comprehension of a story. The skill of using pictures to help understand what they are reading is important in those early stages of reading on their own.

Check out the adorable book trailer for ONCE UPON A FOREST:

Pam Fong was born in Taiwan, came to the United States when she was two years old, and grew up in Southern California. She studied visual arts and art history at the University of California, San Diego, and later received a master’s in arts management from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. She has worked as a gallery manager in Paris, a museum curator, and associate executive director for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Since 2002, Pam has headed her own boutique graphic and website design firm. She became a full-time author/illustrator in 2017. Pam resides in San Diego with her husband and is the mother of two grown boys. Learn more about her life and work at pamfong.com

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Thanks to the publisher for sending a copy of this book for the purpose of this review. This review is my honest opinion. If you choose to make a purchase through the above links, I may receive a small commission without you having to pay a cent more for your purchase.
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