Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Thursday, January 7, 2016

More Precious Than Gold

Wednesdays have become a significant day of the week.  On this day nonfiction is showcased.  It began in 2012 when an educator decided she needed to fill a gap in her reading life.  Alyson Beecher started the Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge on her blog Kid Lit Frenzy.  Today (01/06/2016) she talks about the new challenge, the YMA Pajama Party and includes her Mock Siebert predictions.

This will be my third year participating.  For my first several posts I still have some 2015 books I want to discuss.  As I was reading my choice for this post, I was moved to tears more than once.  Alyson Beecher listed it as one of her Mock Siebert predicted winners and she talks about it on her blog here.  I completely concur.

Year by year our planet and the life of its inhabitants are becoming more fragile.  The Great Monkey Rescue: Saving the Golden Lion Tamarins (Millbrook Press, October 1, 2015) written by Sandra Markle is a story of heroes and their successes.  Within ten chapters and forty pages it documents decades of work and vigilance with an engaging and enlightening narrative.

In a small patch of tropical forest, a squirrel-sized golden lion tamarin stops on a high branch and listens.

She hears a sound, the call of another tamarin. Perhaps this family will be the one she can join.  She needs to find a mate.  Four families later and none will have her.  Not one of them needs a breeding female.  She continues her search the next day until she comes to the edge of the forest.  She has nowhere else to go.

Brazil's Atlantic Forest in South America is the only place on earth, outside of zoos, the golden lion tamarin calls home.  Of the original forest only ten percent remains today.  The habitat of these creatures is shrinking at an alarming rate.  These monkeys make essential contributions in the life of this land.

As early as the 1960s it was noted their population was diminishing to the point of extinction.  Over the next twenty years an important discovery was made about the way golden lion tamarins live and reproduce together.  They have a set family rather than a large group.  Zoos (first the National Zoo in Washington, D. C.) did seek to change the way they housed the golden lion tamarins.  During these years the zoo population around the world increased from 122 to 500.

The next hurdle was to increase the population in Brazil.  Animal scientists and zoo keepers trained their monkeys to live in the wild.  Great pains were taken to safely introduce them into their natural habitat by creating safe havens.  Would it work?  Knowing predators and seeking safe food proved to be overwhelming for the newest members of the forest family.

Around 1990 an exciting discovery was made which momentarily turned the tide.  This coupled with the ever-growing support of the people in Brazil was a huge boost for the monkey population numbers.  It was too good though.  Once again they were running out of enough room to live.

Two men from an organization called SavingSpecies conceived an innovative idea.  Conservationists and volunteers worked for years (more than five) to make this idea a reality.  Did our original female golden lion tamarin ever leave the edge of that forest and find a new family?

With the first chapter Sandra Markle has our attention.  This young female is fenced-in by lack of space.  Our attachment to her plight is immediate and firmly in place.  Markle continues with a history of saving these monkeys spanning more than four decades.  The concise chapters elevate our involvement, inviting us to consume the pages as if we are reading a thrilling survival story.  What makes these even more intriguing is that it is the truth.  In addition to the narrative, informative extras describe the special habitat of the golden lion tamarin and the specifics of their family dynamics.  Here is a sample passage.

To train the tamarins, zoo caretakers began hiding food in the trees.  The monkeys had to poke under bark and look in tree holes to find their meals.  Fruit was no longer peeled or cut up.  The tamarins had to figure out how to eat what they found.  As they would in the real forest, the tamarins also now drank from bowls attached high-up on the tree trunks.  Zoo workers hoped this training would give the monkeys a better chance of surviving in the wild.

If you want to recommend a captivating true life story brimming with named and unnamed heroes, The Great Monkey Rescue: Saving the Golden Lion Tamarins written by Sandra Markle is an excellent choice.  As a nonfiction picture book read aloud selection it would be a fantastic.  At the close of the book is a conversational author's note, a Did You Know? section, a timeline spanning from the 1960s to 2014, a glossary, a Find Out More list of resources, an index and a list of photo acknowledgments.  Every single page has an outstanding photograph or map from a variety of perspectives.  All of them are captioned.

To learn more about Sandra Markle please follow the link attached to her name to access her blog.  At the publisher's website you have several options to view interior pages.  You can click on the tiny magnifying glass under the dust jacket picture to see the front and back of the jacket and two pages.  If you select the gray Look Inside tab you can see the first eleven pages.

Remember to go to Kid Lit Frenzy to see the other selections by bloggers this week.


  1. Somehow this reminded me of Margarita Engle's Orangutanka and Jenkins' Ape. Thanks for sharing this.

    1. You could certainly pair them together Myra. I was amazed at the efforts of all the volunteers and zoo people to keep these creatures from vanishing from our planet.

  2. And here is another one I haven't read yet, but I'm sure my library will have it. It sounds so interesting, Margie. I wonder how many zoos go to such lengths to help animals 'feel' at home? Thanks very much.

    1. I certainly hope your library has it Linda. It has already garnered a couple of honors. I am so happy Sandra brought this story to readers.

  3. I haven't read this one yet, but if you and Aly chose it, then I definitely need to get it. Going to check my library now!

    1. I hope by now you have been able to get a copy Kellee. It's one of those books where the combined efforts of people create amazing results.