Friday, November 28, 2014

A Boy and a Jaguar

A Boy and a Jaguar
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.


  1. The NPR interview was great, and I adore Catia's artwork!

  2. What a great interview with Alan. The artwork is beautiful! You have no idea how happy I am to see a picture book on stuttering. Only a few out there. People are constantly searching for books for their kids and I only have two to offer. So happy Alan shared his story and his love of animals. Will get a copy and review it in a few months on a different day (not PPBF). I want to share this on my website.

  3. Thanks for this post. I hadn't seen this before. It looks great.

  4. Fascinating both the interview and I am sure the book. I love this true story and can see it so clearly in my mind.

  5. Lovely book, agree with Pat, we need more of these. Great choice.

  6. Sounds beautiful. I'm going to try and get a hold of it. There's a child in my class who's very hard to understand...might be good for him and the rest of us to hear this story.

  7. What a most fabulous tale!! Thanks for sharing!