Tag Archive: wildlife


boy and a jaguar

A Boy and a Jaguar by Alan Rabinowitz, illustrated by CaTia Chien

This is a stellar autobiographical picture book written by and about a wildlife conservationist.  Alan was a boy who could not speak clearly.  He battled stuttering all of the time except when he talked with animals.  When he visited the great cat house at the Bronx Zoo, he could whisper fluently into the ears of the cats.  He also spent a lot of time with his pets at home, speaking to them and telling them that if he ever found his own voice, he would serve as their voice since they had none and would keep them from harm.  Alan became the first person to study jaguars.  In Belize he felt at home in the jungle.  He worked to protect the jaguars and eventually had to speak for them in front of the President of Belize, hoping to save their habitat from destruction.  But can he speak clearly in the short 15 minutes he’s been given?

This book is made all the more compelling by the fact that it is true.  It gives readers a glimpse into the world of a child struggling with a disability, one that mars every verbal interaction he has.  And thanks to his ability with animals, readers quickly see beyond the stutter to the boy himself and to the gifts that he has to offer.  Even better, once Alan becomes an adult, readers get to see a man who is taking advantage of his uniqueness to make a difference in the world and for the animals he cares for so much.

Chien’s art is rich and varied.  She moves from backgrounds of wine red to brilliant yellow to the deep greens of the Belize jungles.  She shows an isolated boy, alone that contrasts beautifully with the man working happily alone in the jungle – so similar and yet so very different.

An extraordinary autobiography, this book shows readers not to judge anyone by how they speak but rather by what they do.  Appropriate for ages 4-7.

Reviewed from library copy.

snow school

Snow School by Sandra Markle, illustrated by Alan Marks

High in the mountains of Pakistan, two week-old snow leopard cubs snooze in a den waiting for their mother to return.  It’s May and the pair are only a week old.  When the male cub goes outside, he is attacked by a golden eagle and only saved by his mother rescuing him.  As the cubs grow, the practice pouncing one another and then start to eat directly from the game their mother kills.  Their mother teaches them skills they must have to survive in the harsh climate.  They learn to mark their territory, to silently hunt, to be quick, to guard their food, to find shelter when snow comes, and when to retreat.  It is a story of how small cubs grow into strong hunters and how these great and beautiful cats manage to survive in their mountainous and cold habitat.

Markle is the author of over 200 books for children.  In this one she takes on one of the most elusive creatures on earth and shows the strong family bonds and the huge amount of learning these young cats must accomplish to live.  She writes her nonfiction in verse, making it more easily read.  Nicely, as the mother is teaching her cubs, Markle makes sure readers understand the lesson by repeating it neatly at the end of the stanza. 

Marks’ illustrations capture the snow leopards and their beauty and grace.  There are moments of such daring leaps and heart pounding danger that Marks captures with flawless accuracy.  His use of soft watercolors adds to the mystique of these cats and also captures the speed and motion as they hunt. 

Beautiful illustrations and strong text result in a book that will teach children much about the snow leopards and their lives.  Appropriate for ages 7-9.

Reviewed from copy received from Charlesbridge.

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