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Can We Save the Tiger? Hardcover – February 22, 2011
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About the Author
Martin Jenkins, a conservation biologist, has written several nonfiction books for children, including Ape, Grandma Elephant’s in Charge, The Emperor’s Egg, and Chameleons Are Cool. He lives in Cambridge, England.
Vicky White worked as a zookeeper for several years before earning an MA in natural history illustration from London’s Royal College of Art. She made her picture book debut with Ape. She lives in Middlesex, England.
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It starts out covering a few animals that have disappeared, some I had never even heard of but were amazing. Marsupial wolf is definitely a new one to me. It does describe extinction versus endangered, seriously but without being too depressing for the kid set. We want to give them hope after all of saving some of these animals. This book, I think, does an admirable job of conveying the seriousness of the situation while still emphasizing that it is not completely hopeless for every animal, so long as people are aware and offer assistance.
The illustrations were detailed and gorgeous, pen and ink. There were some resources in the back for further study as well. Again, this is very appropriate for up to probably middle school as new material, and simply a nice book to look at for right up into adulthood. I really enjoyed it, and so did my kids.
The book focuses on reasons species become endangered, from habitat loss to chemicals to the introduction of non-native species. Each concept is clearly explained through a detailed case study of one species -- tigers, white-rumped vultures, partula snails -- with other examples mentioned more briefly. The author acknowledges the difficult choices humans face, sympathizing with, rather than vilifying, a subsistence farmer tempted to kill a nearby tiger. Yet at the same time, responsibility for reversing the trend is placed squarely in human hands. The book ends on an upbeat note, with a section on animals that have been brought back from the brink of extinction. Even here, though, the book refuses rose-colored glasses: one featured bird, the kakapo of New Zealand, is still struggling despite intense conservation efforts.
The book has little to say about how the loss of a species affects the eco-system, appealing instead to children's intrinsic sense of wonder at the diversity of living creatures. And this is okay. The book does not attempt to teach everything there is to know on this subject. But with its wealth of information and ideas, its respect for its readers, and -- not least -- its engaging storytelling, "Can We Save the Tiger?" will both lay a solid foundation and whet children's appetites to learn more.
This book isn't about tigers. Those "big... beautiful...fierce" animals are just author Martin Jenkins' hook. His bigger aim is to shine a light on the plight of endangered species. Through age-appropriate case studies (including, yes, the tiger, but also the less well-known and hardly charismatic, yet still fascinating, partula snails and white-rumped vultures), Jenkins explains some of the main reasons species become endangered. Then he highlights buffalo as a success story, and New Zealand's flightless kakapus as an example of the difficulties conservationists can face despite their best intentions.
In between those case studies are beautifully illustrated notes about many other endangered species - some famous, some obscure.
Martin Jenkins does an excellent job explaining a subject clearly and simply, without stripping it of its complexity. Through both color and black-and-white sketches, illustrator Vicky White does a soul-stirring job of depicting each creature. Kudos to both of them.
HOWEVER... the book never attempts to address the title question: can we save the tigers? While the beauty of prose and illustration stirs the reader to WANT to save the animals, the book falls short on potential solutions or actions that average folks can take. Yes, there is a list of the websites of conservation organizations at the end of the book, but I was expecting something more. Given the misleading mismatch between the title (and the back blurb) and the subject matter, I am giving this otherwise stellar book a four.