A Boy And A Jaguar – Perfect Picture Book Friday

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jagTitle: A Boy And A Jaguar

Written by: Alan Rabinowitz

Illustrated by: Catia Chien

Published by: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014

Themes/Topics: jaguars, conservation, stuttering, big cats

Suitable for ages: 3-7

Awards: Schneider Family Book Award for Children (2015)



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.

“What are you doing?” my father asks.


A little boy named Alan, who stutters uncontrollably when speaking to humans, isolates himself from children and adults to cope. However, when with animals he finds his speech fluid and natural. he has a variety of pets at home but his favorite place, not surprisingly, becomes his local zoo (The Bronx Zoo of New York), where he has a friend, a jaguar. He cannot understand why such a beautiful communicative animal should be left alone in a bare cage.

From a place of deep empathy recognizing that these zoo animals are so often misunderstood as he is,  Alan determines to champion the big cats especially. The story follows. After a breakthrough in college with his speech, he heads to Belize where he is the first person to ever study jaguars. He becomes to these cats what Jane Goodall is to the apes! And in this work and advocacy he finds peace.

Why I like This Book:

“A beautiful book that will inspire stutterers to succeed and make a positive difference in the world.” Temple Grandin, author of Animals in Translation

This story explores truths about the loneliness of young stutters, the misunderstanding especially by adults and the passion of one individual for conservation. It follows the true story of a man that Time Magazine calls, ‘the Indiana Jones of Wildlife conservation.’ Many children will identify with the isolation young Alan feels from being different and with the solace he finds amongst animals. His commitment to becoming a spokesperson for animals who cannot speak for themselves is an inspiration to us all to find our passion and go after it.

Alan Rabinowitz has dedicated his life to animal conservation and he is CEO of PANTHERA a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting the world’s 36 wildcat species. He is also an advocate for stutterers and spokesperson for the Stuttering Foundation of America.

This is a book to add to your conservation lessons and as a great discussion book for supporting friends with a disability.


Chien’s illustrations in acrylic and charcoal are powerful and awash with emotion. Vast panoramic spreads of mountains, aquariums, the jungle give a great sense of the boy’s smallness and yet oneness with these natural conditions.


Each week a group of bloggers reviews picture books we feel would make great educational reads. To help teachers, caregivers and parents, we have included resources and activities with each of our reviews. A complete list of the thousands of books we have reviewed can be found sorted alphabetically and by topics, here on Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

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10 Responses to A Boy And A Jaguar – Perfect Picture Book Friday

  1. Wendy Greenley says:

    I wonder why we never heard of him while Jane Goodall is a household name? This book should help in that regard. (I have it on order at the library, waiting to read!)

    • Joanna says:

      Right, Wendy, I thought the same thing. Clearly not as much publicity, maybe because he also shies away from public speaking. I am glad of a picture book to help rectify this.

  2. I almost ran my review on this book today. I really love the story. And, I like that
    it is based on the author’s stuttering problems. It is a compelling story that will help help many kids who stutter.

    For some reason I couldn’t open your review on the PPBF site.

  3. Boy. This sounds like a great book. When I checked the title it wasn’t available at my library. I’ll recommend this one to purchase. Thanks. Have a warm weekend. 🙂

    • Joanna says:

      This should be in school and public libraries. It is a great story and will touch children on so many levels. Enjoy your weekend, too!

  4. Rob Dunlavey says:

    I first heard about Alan Rabinowitz from The Moth radio. He’s a great story-teller!

  5. Tiffa says:

    Oh, this book is amazing! It gave me chills when I read it to my son — and my son wanted to read it over and over again. I was so enamored by it, that when my husband finished work, I insisted that he sit down and hear this story. He, too, enjoyed it very much.

    I hope everyone in the world gets a chance to read it. 🙂 Thank you for the great review!

  6. This is such a wonderful book, Joanna. I love the empathy between the boy and the jaguar. It’s wonderful that Alan could find his voice in a way that helps his friends the cats. It’s true though, what Wendy said above, about how everyone knows about Jane Goodall and Alan is relatively unknown. I’m sure you’re right that it’s partly that he shies away from public speaking, but still…

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