Jasper’s Story: Saving Moon Bears by Jill Robinson and Marc Bekoff, illustrated by Gijsbert van Frankenhuyzen
Held captive for years by bear “farmers” who kept him in a too-small cage and harvested bile from his body, Jasper’s story is representative of many captive moon bears. Now Jasper has been rescued by Animals Asia, an animal welfare organization. He is taken to their Moon Bear Rescue Center where his medical needs are attended to and he is put into the sanctuary. There, Jasper walks on grass for the first time in his life. Caregivers work to teach Jasper how to find food on his own, hiding food in toys and places to dig. In time, Jasper’s life starts to change. He begins to play more, get stronger, and make friends. Jasper is one success story among many, a testament to what rescue can do to save animals that might have been considered too damaged to rescue.
Robinson and Bekoff write in a very engaging way in this nonfiction picture book. They invest time in telling the story of the abuse as well as painting a beautiful picture of moon bears in the wild: “Far away in the mist-covered mountains of China, the moon sends yellow arcs of light across the hills, softly painting the forests with a luminous glow.” They describe the way that wild animals sleep with a sense of freedom. The prose is beautiful, clearly painting the value of these animals and the importance of their rescue and rehabilitation.
The illustrations are equally evocative. The paintings have a wonderful sense of place, showing the workers at the sanctuary and the horror of the small cages with equal attention. I particularly like the way that the opening image relates to that at the end, showing that Jasper is once again more like the wild moon bears than the abused ones.
A great book on the importance of animal rehabilitation and rescue, this book will speak volumes to every child who picks it up and meets Jasper. Appropriate for ages 7-9.
Reviewed from library copy.
Kate & Pippin: An Unlikely Love Story by Martin Springett, illustrated by Isobel Springett
When Pippin, a fawn, is abandoned by her mother, photographer Isobel Springett found her crying for help. She took Pippin home and placed her by Kate their old Great Dane. The two immediately bonded: Pippin thought she had found a new mother and Kate started to mother her even though she had never raised any puppies of her own. Pippin learned to drink from a bottle and when she got bigger started to adventure outside. One evening, Pippin disappeared into the forest and didn’t return for bedtime. Kate was very concerned, but the next morning Pippin came back just in time for breakfast. Pippin returned to the woods every night after that, returning to the farm almost every morning to eat and play. As she grew into an adult deer, she still continued to return to visit Kate and play. She even still comes into the house once in awhile for a visit.
This is one of the most lovely picture books about a relationship with a wild animal that I have seen. I especially appreciate that Pippin was allowed to continue to be a wild deer, returning to the forest and being allowed to create a relationship on her own terms. It’s definitely refreshing to see. Here the human and dog were able to rescue, aid but also step back and not absorb this little creature. The relationship that emerges is breathtakingly touching, seeped in fragility yet incredibly strong.
A large part of the success here are the photographs of this tiny deer bonding with the enormous dog. By the end of the book, the animals are the same size. It is clear that both of them adore one another on a deep level, and one that is delightfully separate from the humans.
This nonfiction picture book reads like fiction, making it a great pick for a touch of nonfiction in a story time. It’s a story that children will relate to easily and naturally. Appropriate for ages 4-7.
Reviewed from copy received from Henry Holt and Company.
Little Dog Lost: The True Story of a Brave Dog Named Baltic by Monica Carnesi
Children along the banks of the Vistula River were the first to spot the little dog floating on the ice floes. Firemen tried to help rescue the dog, but were unable to reach him before the river carried him away. The river carried the dog into the Baltic sea where a ship arrived. The crew members tried to rescue the dog, but it proved difficult. At one point, the dog even slipped into the water but managed to pull itself back up onto the ice. Finally, the crew managed to get a boat into the water and move close enough to the ice the dog was on and rescue him. After warming up and getting dry, the dog was adopted by the crew and named “Baltic.”
This true story of a dog on the ice inspired the author to create a picture book demonstrating the heroism of both man and dog. Unlike many nonfiction books, this is one that can be used with preschoolers and even toddlers. The story is kept very simple, with only a few sentences on each page, making it move ahead quickly. Add to that the drama of the floating dog and the fear that he will not survive and you have a picture book that is a real treat to read.
Carnesi’s artwork echoes that same child-friendly simplicity with its fuzzy dog. The round-faced people are equally charming and inviting to young readers. My favorite part was turning to the final page that tells more details about the rescue and recognizing the man holding Baltic from his depiction in the book.
This entire work is charming, great fun to read, and also an inspiring story. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy received from Nancy Paulsen Books.