Quote of the Month

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

Friday, March 2, 2012

It's Still Not Too Late

The world's quite a big place,
you know.  But it's not that big,
when you consider how much
there is to squeeze into it.

Martin Jenkins leads off the narrative in this title published in February of 2011, Can We Save The Tiger? illustrated by Vicky White asking readers to visualize our planet, their place on it along with all the other life forms.  He explains that some of the animals and plants have met and survived the changes humans have made; others have not.  Those we will never see live.  They are extinct.

Highlighting the dodo, Steller's sea cow, marsupial wolf, great auk and the broad-faced potoroo he remarks they are few among many gone forever.  He smoothly transitions to discussing those that are endangered, here but precariously so.  Jenkins focuses on the tiger; an animal that most know as remarkable.

As with the previously mentioned animals he gives their genus and species and where they are found; thankfully he does not need to list the year they were last seen.  But he does describe their size, life span, habits, breeding, diet and the number left.  That number, fewer than 2,500 breeding adults in the wild, is shocking.  He devotes a page to educating readers about the tigers' decreasing space for habitation and interaction with humans followed by others in a similar situation.

Continuing with his careful, conversational tone, he introduces us to the partula snails.  They unlike the tiger do not require space.  They adapted well to the intrusion of humans but humans enjoyed eating the much larger giant African land snail bringing them to the islands.  Their numbers grew and they started to eat the people's crops.  A third snail, rosy euglandina, was introduced to eat the giant African land snail but they liked the partula snails much better.  People tipped the scales; predators introduced have placed other species in a dangerous position.

Jenkins' telling of the plight of the white-rumped vulture illustrates the complexity of numerous situations involving endangered species.  When discoveries are made it is not always easy to eliminate the problem quickly; the ripple effect ensues.  As in his earlier discussions he follows with others unintentionally placed in jeopardy by human actions or disease.

It is at this point readers are shown success stories; the American bison, white rhinoceros, Antarctic fur seal, and the vicuna.  His elaboration on the American bison leads into another animal not quite so easy to follow, kakapos living in New Zealand. The obstacles, necessary to overcome, to preserve their lives were not easy but their number has risen from fifty-one in 1995 to one hundred twenty in 2010. 

Without diminishing its importance for older readers Martin Jenkins has provided factual information easily understood by even young readers.

What makes this volume even more luminous are the pencil and oil paint illustrations by Vicky White.  Rendered on heavy cream paper, many in shades of black and grey and others with partial or full color, their lifelike quality is stunning.  As readers we are seeing biological studies, close-ups with nothing left to the imagination.

Her placement on the pages of the animals, some centered on a single page, some bleeding off, some crossing from one page to another, is a visual gift bringing these creatures from their world into ours.  Large or small Vicky White delivers them to us in all their majesty.

The last two pages include references to be found online and an index.  This title appears on the following lists:  Best Books Of The Year 2011, School Library Journal, Boston Globe Horn Book Honor 2011-Nonfiction, Fanfare 2011, The Horn Book, Editor's Choice Children's Books 2011, Kirkus Reviews, and Outstanding Science Trade Books for Students K-12-2012, National Science Teacher Association.

Can We Save the Tiger? by Martin Jenkins, illustrated by Vicky White, leaves no doubt in readers' minds about the importance of preserving our animal and plant life now, not later; while the work to be done might seem overwhelming it can be done one species at a time.  This volume, a thing of beauty in and of itself, carries a message to be heard and understood by all ages; a message to save the beauty all around us.

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