"An ambitious sci-fi novel that will charm eco-champions . . ."
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"Knauf 's powers of description are marvelous, as is her ability to create original, funny characters and terrific, punchy dialogue. . . . will leave readers hoping for a sequel."
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"The minor characters are exquisite: lively, entertaining, and complex."
—San Francisco Book Review
—San Francisco Book Review
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"A Plant-whisperer Who Kicks Butt"
For those who feel the world is going to hell in a genetically-modified hand basket because of global warming, toxic waste, and unscrupulous agribusiness practices, Sandra Knauf's sly YA novel, Zera and The Green Man, delivers a shot of hope.
A fantasy adventure tale, Zera takes aim at mankind's attempts to improve on Mother Nature's perfection by taking dangerous shortcuts. Zera, whose name means "seed" in Hebrew, confronts arrogance incarnate through the people who run Void Chemical Corporation, a company that specializes in freakish genetic mutations. It employs a cadre of Dr. Frankensteins, including her Uncle Theodore (her legal guardian since her parents are dead), who appears to have swapped his conscience for fame and money. Void's scientists have created such monstrosities as the "walato," a product (fruit? animal?) by splicing together the genes of a tomato and a walrus. They're betting that the creation will thrive in the Arctic and make them billions.
So what's a nature-loving girl to do? Knauf's irreverent 15-year-old protagonist is full of questions as she struggles to confront the dark forces toying with the fate of the natural world. The story, set in Colorado, is more than a manifesto against bioengineering, but is also a tender coming-of-age story about someone trying to find herself in a world that seems consumed with fashion, groupthink, and instant gratification. Other characters, such as Nonny, Zera's no-nonsense grandmother, and Tiffany, Uncle Theodore's girlfriend-you-love-to-hate, make this story a fun tale about flawed, real people as well as an imperiled planet.
Knauf's prose and insights about teenagers keeps the story zipping along, letting readers into the fantastical world of a sassy girl who not only loves Venus flytraps, but can talk to them too.
Zera and The Green Man is Knauf's first foray into fiction, but it probably won't be her last. Brimming with wit and spunk, Zera and the Green Man will strike a chord with readers of any age who like to eat their tomatoes the old fashioned way—with just a bit of salt.
—D'Arcy Fallon, Author of So Late, So Soon
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“A highly original, well-written, exciting YA novel that blends fantasy, spirituality, and a coming-of-age story with a righteous call to action to save our beleaguered Earth. . . What is the secret that the Green family has held for generations? What freakish GMO horrors are being "grown" in the top-secret labs at Void Chemical? What role will Zera play in the fight to save the planet from human depredation? How can she balance all this with her life as a normal teen? This book calls out for a sequel so that readers can continue to accompany Zera in her discovery that true magic can be found within herself and in the wonders of Nature — and that some of Nature's awesome powers lie within her own grasp.”
“Fans of the paranormal have seen enough zombies and vampires; time to usher in the magic of plants. Zera and the Green Man reminds me of the coolness of a Dylan Thomas poem, ‘The Force That Through the Green Fuse Drives the Flower.’ The power it takes to crack open a seed is something. The distance a seed can go is something else. ‘Seeds are great travelers, you know,’ a plant tells Zera, ‘but there are some who are the best travelers of all. You even breathe them in, exhale them. They ride into and out of your body as well as on the winds. Pollen grains and spores.’ Yes, a plant told Zera that. Sounds crazy, but it's fun. (Did I mention that vampires are over-done?) The Green Man is an ancient myth, and it's fun to see him come alive for modern teenage readers.”
Carol Kean--Vine Voice
Imaginative and thought-provoking, Zera and the Green Man is a young adult novel everyone can enjoy, but one that’s a special treat for the horticulturally-inclined, since much of the fantasy grows out of author Sandra Knauf’s knowledge and love of the plant world. For instance, when Zera needs to fly across the country, she doesn’t just teleport, she floats on a spore. And while the talking Venus flytrap may be a pure fabrication, Knauf reminds us that in real life plants can communicate with each other in ways that seem almost miraculous. Since a major theme of the book is the way nature is being threatened by short-sighted profiteers, Knauf cleverly underlines the value of what is being lost by grounding the fantasy in the real natural world.
—Simone Martel, author of Exile’s Garden and A Cat Came Back
“I was quickly engrossed in this Young Adult novel and its mature theme of the planetary call to awakening as protectors of our incredibly intelligent and sentient planet. Every reader who endured feeling different and out-of-place as a teen will identify with iconic Zera, a girl whose personal coming of age serves as harbinger of a New Green Age.”
—Rebekah Shardy, author of 98 Things a Woman Should Do In Her Lifetime
Zera and the Green Man is a fun and fast-paced read. It is also a timely one, considering that we are deep in the heart of a great debate concerning genetically modified food. . . . Sandra Knauf's writing is filled with wit, adventure, and emotion. She does an excellent job of creating characters that are multi-dimensional, allowing readers to connect with them on an emotional level. This is the case for the heroes, the villains, and everyone in between. This book is quite entertaining, but it is also eye-opening, prompting the reader to consider the actions that humans are taking in the name of convenience and progress and their unfortunate side-effects. If you're looking for a fictional story that is both fun and intelligent, Zera and the Green Man is the answer.
—Daniel Murphy, author of the botanical science blog Awkward Botany, one of the Top 50 Botany Websites & Blogs for Botanists and Plant Scientists
Zera and the Green Man is part science, part fiction, part love story, and all entertaining. . . Sandra Knauf, whose first book I believe this is, does a wonderful job of engaging readers quickly, adding elements of science and spirituality into the mix and dusting just a bit of teenage romance on top of the story to give it energy, depth and a few very interesting twists. A fast read, Zera and the Green Man looks at what is rapidly becoming a part of all of our lives, genetic modification. While most of the plant GMOs in the market today fall into the agri-business industry, this book takes the next logical step in this highly charged arena, focusing on some plant/animal combinations that are plausible extensions of the science of genetic modification. . . This book will appeal across age groups and artificial barriers to anyone who enjoys a good plot, good characters and a bit of science fact and fiction. This is one of those books that you rush to read; you want to get to the ending. But when you get there, you wish that the story would just go on! I’m looking forward to the sequel.
—Pat Muccigrosso, author of the gardening blog Grow So Easy Organic
This young-adult novel is an interesting, at times spellbinding mixture of magic and science, adventure and romance. Zera, the rebellious 15-year-old heroine, comes to The Pikes Peak area of Colorado to stay with her grandmother, yet soon finds herself engaged in the battle between organic gardening/farming and a biotechnology company on the cutting edge of genetically modified industry. The novel is largely set in "Ute Springs," clearly the author's name for Manitou Springs, and like all the best young adult novels, contains lots of easily digestible information, in this case about organic gardening, biotechnology, and life in a Colorado mountain town. The author passionately rejects the ethos of GMO, and provides an edge-of-your-seat climax to this novel set in the not-too-distant future.
“Dramatic changes in climate, both global and political, that have occurred in the short time since its publication, (2013) make this book’s message even more urgent. Young adult readers, I hope you, like Zera, hear the the Green Man’s call and take action. The call is real and the world needs you.
—Lucy Bell, Native Plant Master, Cheyenne Mountain State Park, Colorado Springs, CO and author of Coming Up. A Boy’s Adventures in 1940s Colorado Springs