Monday, May 9, 2016

Non-Fiction Monday: Cecil's Pride by Craig Hatkof

Cecil's Pride: the true story of a lion king by Craig Hatkof, Juliana Hatkoff, and Isabella Hatkoff. Photographs by Brent Stapelkamp. 40 p. Scholastic Inc., April 26, 2016. 9781338034455. (Reviewed from copy borrowed from library.)

Man, I try to keep up. Really I do. I read skim most of the professional review journals. I follow several hundred blogs and 1000+ authors on social media. I attend conferences. Yet, I am still caught unawares by some gems and I usually find these at the two public libraries that I frequent - my own home town and the library across the street from my school.

I was one of the many millions of folks who mourned and followed the story of Cecil's murder last year. I fretted about Jericho and Cecil's cubs. I pondered some online postings that the world mourns a murdered animal, but asked where the outrage was over murdered black children. I read the argument that hunting tourism does more for conservation than the usual tourism. When I saw this book on display, I melted and knew before I even cracked it open that I was purchasing a copy for my library.

I am a fan of the Hatkof's work. Most of their photoessays are in my library. Their purpose in this offering is to celebrate Cecil's life. Thanks to the fact that he had been collared, tracked and studied by lion researcher, Brent Stapelkamp and the folks at the University of Oxford Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU), there is much material for a compelling biography of a unique lion.

There was so much more to Cecil than the black mane that set him apart from most lions. He and an unrelated lion, named Jericho formed an unlikely alliance and seeming friendship, as evidenced by Jericho's unusual behavior following Cecil's death. He seemed to purposely pose for photographs by tourists. His comfort around humans might have accounted for ease with which he was lured off the preserve to be "legally" hunted.

The text is simple and accessible (although pronunciation guides would've been helpful) but the photographs are the stars. Stunningly intimate photos show Cecil and his family at work and at play, including a ferocious long shot of Cecil and Jericho fighting over territory. Terrific back-matter includes facts about lions; and pages examining the global impact of Cecil's death, and information about Hwange National Park and the Oxford University Study. There are no source notes or suggestions for further reading but this is a fine purchase for any library - school, classroom or public.

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