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Sunday, September 4, 2011

Can We Save the Tigers? Written by Martin Jenkins and illustrated by Vicky White. Candlewick, Random House. 2011. $19.00 ages 8 and up

"So if you were a poor farmer trying to make a living with a couple of cows and a few goats,  you might not be too happy if you found there was a hungry tiger living nearby. And if you knew that someone might pay you more for a tiger skin and some bones than you could earn in three whole months working in the fields, than you might find it very tempting to set a trap or two, even if you knew it was against the law. Perhaps it's not surprising that there aren't that many tigers left."

What a stunning and thought-provoking book this is! It is a wonderful example of the best in nonfiction narrative...once started, I sat mesmerized and read every single word!

Martin Jenkins' personal view and conversational style has much to offer his readers. He makes the information totally engrossing and gives it a real immediacy for those who share his concern. Whether reading it alone, or with another child or adult, time needs to be taken to consider seriously the points he is making. He has an abiding concern and his book shows it clearly:

"Some of the other animals and plants that we share the Earth with have coped with the changes very well. But some haven't.

In fact, some have coped so badly that they're not here anymore.

They're extinct."

The full page pencil illustration of the dodo faces that text and then the author and illustrator fill the following double page spread with other animals no longer seen.  He could go on.

He doesn't. But, he does tell us about some of the earth's animals that are facing just such a fate. He begins with the majestic and splendid tiger. He adds information concerning range, size, life span, habits, breeding, food, and number remaining. He follows that with compelling text about the tiger and its plight.

He moves on to tell of other animals facing the same future, and the space they need to survive. This is a book that needs to be shared...front cover to back and with concern for the predicament that is facing these beautiful creatures. I have been reading it to anyone who will listen, and look forward to sharing it with many more. It is powerful and enlightening. I am always aghast at how much I do not yet know!     

Kids will love the stories that Martin Jenkins tells while imparting the information he has to share. They cannot help but be amazed at the beauty of the illustrations, so detailed and rendered in pencil and oil paints. The images are as powerful as the text.

It is up to the world at large to ensure the survival of these endangered animals. And, it has worked when concern is shown:

"The ranchers who kept the captive bison started breeding from them, and governments set  up reserves to protect the wild herds. Bison numbers began to grow; now there are hundreds of thousands again. Most of them are kept by ranchers, who treat them like cattle, but there are also some wild herds."

It is promising. There are concerns:

"When it comes to looking after all the species that are already endangered, there's such a lot to do that sometimes it might all seem to be too much, especially when there are so many other important things to worry about. But if we stop trying, the chances are that pretty soon we'll end up with a world where there are no tigers or elephants, or sawfishes or whooping cranes, or albatrosses or ground iguanas."

Is that what we want? I hope not. It would be a shame to miss this incredible book...please don't!

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