Girl of the Year 2016 movie: Lea to the Rescue

Released on DVD in June 2016


The movie takes place a year after Lea's initial trip to Brazil. Zac is in town for a brief visit...with his girlfriend Paula (pronounced like "pow-la"). Is Zac going to stay in South American forever? Suddenly Lea's a third wheel. Even when she tries to get to know Paula, her parents butt in and end up shutting her down. In an effort to help Lea not feel left out, Zac confides in her that he's tracking some poachers. Even Paula doesn't know.

About a week later, Zac and Paula are back in Brazil, and Lea's dad is on a camping trip. Paula calls with the news that she hasn't heard from Zac in four days...and he hasn't shown up to work...and his other friends haven't seen him either...he's not even in any hospitals. Lea starts to tell her mom about the poachers--maybe they've captured Zac (or worse). But her mom is busy booking them on the next flight out to find Zac.

Mrs. Clark gets busy right away talking to different authorities, but since Zac is 20 (i.e.; not a minor) she has difficulty making headway. A sympathetic police officer is helping Mrs. Clark. She finds out some information about the night Zac went missing--a coworker called him late, but only to invite him over.

Lea is left in the care of Paula, who not only barely knows her but treats her as younger and less capable than she is. Desperate to do something, Lea finds a notebook in her brother's room with notes about the poachers. Paula is sure Zac has stopped looking for the poachers, but Lea knows better. They go looking for clues, and inadvertently tip off some people in the poaching ring that they're looking for Zac. They end up following a truck into the rain forest, where Paula's scooter gets a flat tire. Lea insists on following on foot, running off ahead, forcing Paula to follow her. But there's only just in time to see the truck finishing fording a river and driving off into the trees.

Undeterred, Lea makes a raft to float after the boat (I definitely see Paula's point here--they can't hope to catch up to the truck on foot and they're not prepared for a hike through the rain forest). They get scared by a tarantula (which aren't venomous, but could be startling) and end up trapped in a net set by a local tribe. A member of the tribe cuts them loose and they run, worried that they've stumbled across a tribe hostile to outsiders. But the girl who cut them loose, about Lea's age, knows about civilization and speaks broken English learned from some items they've found like radios. The girl, Aki, knows where the poachers are and can show Lea and Paula the way--and how to avoid her tribe's traps.

Aki's mother shows up, and Lea recognizes the symbol on her arm as the same one on her grandmother's journal. When she shows Aki's mother the journal, Lea and Paula are invited back to Aki's village for the night (Paula was able to get cell service briefly, but with all the static all that Mrs. Clark gets is that they're together for the night). And it just so happens that, in the middle of the largest country in South America, they've stumbled across the tribe that Lea's grandmother helped years ago, when many members were ill. They happily agree to help find Zac.

In the morning, Aki's tribe has tracked Zac and discovered where the poachers are taking him. Mrs. Clark and the police officer have made a little progress, and find themselves at a store which is a front for the poachers. But all they know is that Zac shopped there. As they arrive to the store, Lea and her companions have snared a poacher in a trap, and Lea calls her mom on the man's satellite phone. Mrs. Clark is so distraught with all the stress (she discovered Lea and Paula were gone, too) that she orders Lea to come back to the hotel and then hangs up (and Lea doesn't call back?). Mrs. Clark and the police officer soon get suspicious--the store owner gets a call from Zac's office (they can see the number on the cell phone display screen). The owner runs away. At the office, Mrs. Clark and the police officer demand answers, prompting the man who claimed to have invited Zac over to bolt. He's soon arrested.

Lea and Paula are back in the city, too: Aki led them to the edge of her tribe's government protected area, and they caught a ride with a tour bus. But one of the poachers spotted them and chases them through a marketplace. They're able to give him the slip, and tail him to where Zac's being held in a warehouse. Lea is able to sneak in, but soon she and Paula are also caught. They manage to escape and get to the police (same officer as the one helping Mrs. Clark) but the poachers and animals are gone by the time they get back to the warehouse. Lea looks through the pictures on her camera (Paula was smart enough to hide it from the poachers) and finds clues to where the poachers are headed. The police officer radios for backup, and the poachers are caught as they're trying to escape by sea.

Back home in St. Louis, Lea is able to have a photography show with the pictures she took on her trip--not all of them though. Aki's tribe has little contact with the outside world and wants to stay that way (which is why the tribe stays on government-protected land, and why her grandmother didn't tell the family about her adventure). The pictures and other mementos go in a briefcase. Lea can revisit her memories, but she's committed to keeping Aki's secret.


Filmed in Capetown, Western Cape; Durban, KwaZulu-Natal; and Port Edward, South Africa.

It's so hard to type Clark with no E on the end. I have a friend whose last name is Clarke.

I agree with Mr. and Mrs. Clark. If I have a dinner guest who has dietary preferences or needs (e.g.; vegetarian, someone with allergies) I want to know so I can make food the person can eat. 

The sloth Lea found has been rehabilitated and released to the wild.

Aki's bangs are distractingly stylish.

Despite being filmed in Africa, the wildlife looks pretty good. I'm not sure about the plants, though. But nothing jumps out as horribly wrong for South America.

When the police arrest the poachers, several of them have their guns drawn. Look at their index fingers: they're all resting on the side of the gun, not on the trigger. Obviously unrealistic when apprehending dangerous criminals, but a very safe way to hold a gun you don't want to fire.

There's a bit with Zac offering to finish college in St. Louis, but Lea, now fond of Paula, says he has a life in Brazil and she doesn't want to keep him from living it.

If I could pick the 2017 Girl of the Year, I'd go with a girl from somewhere like American Samoa or Guam--there hasn't been a fully Asian Girl of the Year or historical character, and someone from a territory rather than a state would be really interesting and educational (residents of American Samoa aren't even US citizens, just US nationals, which kinda sucks...).


Lea Clark-Maggie Elizabeth Jones
Carol Clark-Hallie Todd
Aki-Storm Reid
Paula Ferreira-Laysla de Oliveira
Zac Clark-Connor Dowds
Ricardo Carvalho-Sean Cameron Michael
Officer Adriano Costa-Rehane Abrahams
Rick Clark-Kevin Otto
Miguel Belo-Joe Vaz
Bruno-Peter Butler
Abby-Mokgethoa Tebeila
Aki's Mother-Aimee Valentine
Zoe-Lee Raviv
Jimmy-Ray Crosswaite
Tribal Leader-Farouk Valley-Omar
Lea's Grandmother-Karin Howard
Reporter-Julie Phillips
Felipe Mourinho-Philip Waley
Luiz-Dylan Edy
Lea's Teacher-Julie Hartley
Policeman-Pisco Maurer


Girl of the Year 2016: Lea Leads the Way

Author: Lisa Yee
Illustrator: Sarah Davis


Lea and Zac arrive at the home of Zac's host family, ready for a week in the Amazon rain forest. Zac's host parents are warm and welcoming, while his kindergarten-age host brother is (understandably) shy. Lea jumps right in to experiencing new things and loves every bit of it, aside from the family's territorial rooster who makes a point of chasing and pecking at Lea. 

But the rain forest doesn't live up to Lea's expectations. In some ways, that's good: no piranhas devour her when she falls into a river. But she's also disappointed that the wild animals are hard to see, and a little confused by how at home Zac seems. She also gets on Zac's bad side when he sees her disregard for the local flora and fauna. The first instance Zac is too harsh--Lea accidentally falls off a boat and panics when she thought an animal had grabbed. But by ten, she should know better than to ask her brother to stir up an ant nest just for fun. 

Lea settles in a little better when Zac host brother warms up to her, and when his host father takes her and Zac on a night cruise (he's a tour guide). They see several nocturnal animals, and hear even more. She and Zac are on better terms, too, after she apologizes for wanting to disturb the ant hill.  Her classmates, parents, and Camila are enjoying her travel blog, too. 

While on a hike with Zac, Lea finds an injured baby sloth. She convinces Zac to let her take it to his host family's house (they can't find any signs of the mother), and he gets in touch with one of his professors who knows about wildlife rehabilitation. They get a recommendation for a rehab center, but a blog comment from Lea's best friend Abby has her worried. Abby writes, "I can't believe you took that sloth out of her natural habitat." As the sloth, named Amanda after Lea's grandmother, seems to worsen on the way to the center, Lea's sick with worry and guilt due to the Abby's comment. 

A worker at the center confirms that Amanda needs medical attention: her broken claws are infected, and she has a broken leg. Most likely she was attacked by a harpy eagle, which likely ate the mother. Once she's healed, the center will determine whether's able to survive in the wild or will have to remain in captivity. Later, a series of back-and-forth comments clears up Abby's confusion--she didn't realize Amanda was injured and orphaned, or how much human interference already happens in the rain forest.

Too soon, Lea's week is up and it's time to go home to St. Louis. But Amanda is recovering well. Lea adopts her--she'll donate money for her care. As she gets ready to leave, Lea notices the last few pages of Ama's travel journal are blank. She starts her own entry.

Glossary of Portuguese Words

This book doesn't have any sort of appendix beyond a little Portuguese-English dictionary.


Dedicated to Kait.

Between Lea and Jess, we have two Girls of the Year visiting other parts of the Americas beyond the US (Belize in Central America and Brazil in South America).

While reports of anacondas thirty to fifty feet long exist, the longest reputable length recorded is a little over 17 feet. A $50,000 prize for a specimen thirty feet or longer has been available for decades, but no one has claimed it (snake skin isn't a good indicator of size; it can stretch significantly during the tanning process).

Mosquitoes aren't just the most dangerous animal in the Amazon, they're the most dangerous in the world. More people die each year due to mosquito-borne illness than due to animal attacks (e.g.; bears or other large predators, or large territorial animals like hippos). Malaria, dengue fever, yellow fever, West Nile virus, and the lovely Zika virus, straight out of Brazil, to name a few. If I could eliminate a species, it'd be the mosquitoes that bite people (second and third choices: bedbugs and lice). There are other species of mosquito, plus gnats and so on, so birds and the like could still eat bugs.

The book notes that piranhas don't actually eat people and aren't killer eating machines. While efficient eaters, the ones that impressed President Theodore Roosevelt and lead to the image were purposely starved before his arrival so they'd go into a feeding frenzy.

I would be surprised if the moon gave enough light for Lea's camera to not need flash when she's taking a night cruise about February 4 or 5, 2016. It was almost a new moon then, so mostly visible during the day--and just a tiny sliver on top of that.

While I'm thrilled Lea got to see a river dolphin, I'm surprised that she doesn't know calf can refer to babies of animals other than cows. I know for sure I knew baby whales and dolphins are called calves by the age of eight, and also baby giraffes, elephants, and other animals.

And she doesn't know what poachers are...I guess all the painful exposition is to inform the readers about things with Lea as the audience surrogate, but I know ten-year-olds. They know these things. The information can be in a narration or a blog post.

Zac wants to help save the rain forest, and plans to continue living in the tropics.


Girls of the Year 2016: Lea Dives In

Author: Lisa Yee
Illustrator: Sarah Davis


Ten-year-old Lea Clark is excited to see her big brother again. Despite the eleven-year age difference, she and Zac have always been close. For the last year, he's been studying in Brazil (where their great-grandfather was born and raised) and now Lea and her parents are going to see him. It's not just Lea's first time out of the country, it's the first time she's been out of Missouri! She's excited to see and experience new things, armed with her camera and a compass necklace given to her by her recently-deceased grandmother Ama, who loved traveling.

While Brazil is amazing and Lea's thrilled to see Zac, the trip starts with some disappointments. Zac, who left for college three years ago and has been in Brazil for several months, doesn't seem to remember that while he's growing up, Lea is too. She's matured since they lived under the same roof (I've seen this blind spot manifest first hand with my brothers, who are ten years apart--when you don't see an eight-year-old age day-to-day, it can be hard to remember after a while that he's not a little kid anymore). And her first visit to the ocean brings back memories of nearly drowning in a lake four years ago. Lea tries to shake the fear, but after a second beach trip, resolves to hide behind her camera instead of swimming.

But it's hard when Zac treats her like she's still the same age she was when he left for college, and seems bored hanging out with her. Trying to enjoy her trip and inspired by Ama's travel journals, Lea starts a travel blog. Her underwater camera will net her great pictures, and her family is invited to watch some sea turtles hatch! Meeting a new friend, Camila, helps shake Lea's dark mood, too. Camila is very friendly and outgoing, and understanding. She even finds a quiet place for Lea to practice snorkeling with Camila's cousin, Paloma--who Zac finds quite enchanting. With Paloma's help, Lea is able to overcome her fear of the ocean.

Lea ends up helping Camila with her fear of heights: the day before they go to the rain forest, Lea, Zac, and their dad go hiking. They end up lost, and then their dad falls partway down a cliff and breaks his leg. Using the pictures Lea's been taking with her camera and the compass necklace Ama gave her, Lea and Zac get back to their hotel and take Camila and a rescue team to their dad. After he's safe, Lea and Zac talk, and get their relationship repaired, with Zac seeing that Lea isn't a little kid anymore. In fact, when Lea's parents decide going the rain forest isn't possible with her dad's cast (I can't imagine the humidity and hiking would help anything), Zac convinces them that Lea's old enough to go with just him.

Before leaving the coast, Lea spends a few last moments with Camila, who will be visiting her cousins in Chicago soon--maybe they can meet up. 

Glossary of Portuguese Words

This book doesn't have any sort of appendix beyond a little Portuguese-English dictionary.


Dedicated to Jodi, Dan, and Sara.

Zac's childhood nickname for Lea is Cricket, which she realizes she's outgrown during the book.

I have to agree with Lea's initial dislike of salt water. I far prefer swimming in lakes to oceans, in part because of fresh water is nicer to swim in (also because I get paranoid about my kids and rip tides).

Lea's grandmother left her several travel journals, which Lea reads throughout her books.

Lea's parents are both into history: her mom is an architect who restores historic buildings, and her dad is a history professor at Washington University (which is in Missouri, not Washington; we have the University of Washington, Washington State University, Central Washington University, Western Washington University, and Eastern Washington University).

Alligators don't live in South America. The two extant species live in the US and in China. South American has caimans and crocodiles (the latter only in far northern part, not in Brazil).

Camila says she has a fear of heights. I hope that in the third book, when she visits Lea in St. Louis, she fully conquers the fear with a trip up the Gateway Arch, or is able to enjoy it after the experience on the cliff--it's 630 feet tall. I got a nosebleed visiting it and jokingly blamed it on the elevation.

I once saw a friend's dad introduce himself the way Zac introduces himself: "I'm [friend's] brother. I mean son. I mean dad."

Not only do many newly-hatched sea turtles fall prey to various predators, a lot drown as they reach the ocean.

Zac gives Lea a wish bracelet, and her three wishes are to be able to swim in the ocean without fear. Camila tells her the orange of the bracelet represents courage. Lea snorkels before it falls off (which is when the wishes are supposed to be granted). It falls off some time during her dad's rescue.

At the very end of the book, Lea gives her compass necklace to the villagers collecting offerings for Yemanjá, a sea goddess. The offering is given February 2, giving a concrete date for the events of the book. (They spend a week at the beach) I can't tell if that's the right time of year for sea turtles to hatch.