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Sunday, September 27, 2015

How To Babysit A Leopard: And Other True Stories From Our Travels Across Six Continents, written and illustrated by Ted and Betsy Lewin. A Neal Porter Book, Roaring Brook, Macmillan. Raincoast, 2015. $26.99 ages 8 and up

"That evening she lay stretched out on the lowest branch as regal as the Queen of Sheba, then paraded back and forth in the light of our torch like a model on the runway, as elegant a creature as we had ever seen. Then she leaped twenty feet straight up into the leafy tree canopy, her show over for the night. The next  morning she was gone."

I know readers are going to love poring over this amazing and informative new book by Ted and Betsy Lewin. I have long admired their work. In this book that reads like a travel journal, they are sure to engage and enlighten with a series of highlights from their 40 years of carefully considering the world - human and natural. It is quite the story to tell.

In the first four pages, they entice readers with but a few of their exploits.  At the same time, they include sketches, and photographs from their journals. This wife-and-husband team have been sharing their stories and observations since their first book together - Gorilla Walk, which was published in 1999. They have chosen to share the stories they have collected on six continents. The design takes us from one to the next, chronicling their many adventures on each.

They begin in Africa:

"Our big adventure to East Africa was to set the tenor of our lives. We saw herds of wildebeests a million strong on the Serengeti Plain. We saw black rhinos, elephants, lions, leopards, giant forest hogs, and gorgeous birds like carmine bee-eaters, lilac-breasted rollers, and forest kingfishers that light up the sky like fireworks. We saw tens of thousands of flamingos feeding in the Ngorongoro Crater, and the famous tree-climbing lions of Manyara. We visited nearby Olduvai Gorge where the skull of Lucy, the oldest humanoid in the world, was discovered."

The whole book is like a lovely conversation, shared in equal parts by each contributor. They made me laugh before also making me shed a tear. I was on edge at times, as they encountered the terrors of meeting wild animals face-to-face, and in awe of anyone who could spend such a large part of their lives in places where I cannot imagine myself going. They share their own awe as they travelled the world.

Difficult decisions were made over a period of six years to determine the stories they wanted to tell and how they would tell them. Forty years of shared travel ensure that readers know the risks, the joys and the fears they have also shared. Informative, enlightening and oh, so entertaining, you will not be sorry to sit for the time it takes to read this incredibly engaging book.

It's especially perfect for those children in classrooms where the many stellar picture books written by the pair have been shared, or made available for free choice reading. Now, they will have background information concerning the ways that authors and artists work to bring us books to love.

It is a terrific tour!     

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