By Alan Rabinowitz; illus. by Catia Chien
32 pages; ages 4-8
HMH Books for young readers, 2014
This is a true story about a boy, his connection to animals, and how he became the "Indiana Jones of wildlife conservation".
themes: nonfiction, autobiography, animals
"I'm standing in the great cat house at the Bronx Zoo. Why is this jaguar kept in a bare room? I wonder. I lean toward my favorite animal and whisper to her."
Alan Rabinowitz loves the jaguar. He can talk to her. He also loves his chameleon, gerbil, and snake. He can talk to them, too. The only animals he can't talk to are human. Alan stutters, and no one - not his dad or his teachers - can understand him. So when he talks to his animals, Alan promises that if he can ever find his voice, he will be their voice and keep them from harm.
When he grows up, Alan studies jaguars. But they are being hunted nearly to extinction. Alan knows he has to protect them - and that means talking to government officials.
What I like about this book: It is full of hope - for children and for animals. And I like that Alan tells his own story, and that he still talks to jaguars (and other cats). In an interview on NPR Alan says that all children go through periods in their live where they feel misunderstood or shut off from the human world - whether they have a disability or just something inside them that makes them different from everyone else. "I wanted this book to speak to all of those children because I don't think adults realize, unless you've gone through it as a child, what a lasting mark such pain leaves on a young person."
Beyond the book: Have you ever talked to an animal? Cats make wonderful listeners. So do toads (they don't hop away as quickly as frogs). If you do end up talking to an animal, what sort of things might you discuss?
Visit jaguars and other wild cats at a zoo.
Alan Rabinowitz is president and CEO of Panthera, a wildlife organization dedicated to protecting the world's wild cat species. You can learn a lot about jaguars and other wild cats at Panthera.
Watch In Search of the Jaguar (free feature-length documentary)
See out what other bloggers are reviewing over at the STEM Friday blog. Today's review is also part of PPBF (perfect picture book Friday), an event in which bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's site. She keeps an ever-growing list of Perfect Picture Books. Review copy provided by the publisher.