Title: 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.
- The back jacket flap has a great Q&A with Alan Rabinowitz.
- Check out PANTHERA especially the Jaguar Corridor Initiative
- I wrote a post here on the differences between jaguars and leopards and recommend a couple of picture books about them.
- HMH has a website for A Boy And A Jaguar and here you can watch a short video by the author.
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.