Monday, June 27, 2016

Non-Fiction Monday: The Great Leopard Rescue: saving the Amur Leopards by Sandra Marle

The Great Leopard Rescue: saving the Amur Leopards by Sandra Markle. 48 p. Millbrook Press/ Lerner Publishing Group, August 1, 2016. 9781467792479. (Review from purchased finished copy.)

So it's Monday and I'm at ALA. I didn't set up a non-fiction review for today. Now that it's summer, I am trying to push myself to review more. Slow start. Anyway, the picture book I thought was a biography, is told in dialogue from the subject and I thought that even though it's beautiful and it's powerful, it might not be strictly non-fiction. Then I walked past the Lerner booth on my way to the post office (where I had to wait an hour and a half to ship my two boxes of books!) and this book called to me. I have Ms. Markle's earlier book, The Great Monkey Rescue on my summer pile to read and review. After finding out that it was for sale, I grabbed it and went to wait and wait and wait online. 

Now I'm poolside at my hotel, having lunch and just having read The Great Leopard Rescue. If you don't immediately fall in love with this book thanks to the sedate, snow-covered leopard staring stoically out of the cover, you will fall in love with the smooth narrative depicting dramatic and dangerous loss of this beautiful big cat. 

The Amur leopard is named for the area in Russia where they range and they now number in the thirties - down from an estimate of about 2400 in 1956. The Russian taiga has been clearcut in search of ore and to support agriculture. The leopard population is also a favorite of poachers, who suffer little consequences if they are even caught.

Since the 1990s conservationists have been working hard to protect the leopard population. The latest effort is to borrow leopards from zoos, transport the male and female to a specially designed enclosure on the taiga, where the female will live for the two years it takes to raise her cubs to maturity. Eventually, the mature wild-born cubs will be released to the taiga and the mom will return to her home zoo. Efforts will be made to avoid cross-breeding and the cubs will need to be taught how to avoid the Amur tiger, their only predator besides humans.

Plentifully illustrated with large full-color, well-captioned photos, this is a well-designed book. Leopards and cubs appear in a variety of situations - cub play, adult hunting, tranquilized while being tended to by conservation scientists. There's a map of the area where the leopards are found. The narrative flows like a story, neatly incorporating the meaning of some difficult words like, murmers, in parentheses. There's a glossary of sixteen additional words at the back but these are not bolded in the text. An author's note, timeline, a page with five additional "Did you know?" facts, sources notes, and suggestions for further study round out an important addition to school, public and classroom libraries. 

Sandra Markle, a former science teacher, has a knack for explaining complex environmental issues into an accessible narrative for all readers interested in saving our planet. Don't miss this. 

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