I love it when a picture book touches something inside me. I have learned to embrace the tears and sniffles while reading these kinds of books to my children. And to push through, even if my voice is quivering. Even if I am feeling embarrassed. Why? Because I believe it is good for my kids to see me affected by a story. Reading teaches empathy, and we can certainly do with some more of that in this world.
One such a picture book is A Boy and a Jaguar by Alan Rabinowitz. Alan cannot talk to people, because of his severe stutter. He can however, talk to animals. He makes a promise to the jaguar in the zoo that, when he finds his voice, he will speak up for the animals. And he does just that. In this autobiographical picture book Dr.Rabinowitz tells the story of his work in jaguar conservation. He also tells the story of boy Alan and his struggles as a stutterer. It is a moving story of brokenness and healing.
Cátia Chien’s colorful illustrations seamlessly transport us from the Great Smokey Mountains to Belize, from city to jungle and face to face with a genial jaguar. Through the illustrations the book progresses from a sad, somber and lonely mood to one of hope, light, companionship and healing. The last two illustrations fill me with such peace; I just want to linger on those pages.
A Boy and a Jaguar is an endearing, uplifting picture book that illustrates truths about purpose, promises, compassion, and finding one’s own voice.
A Boy and a Jaguar is a BIG story. It includes messages about conservation, bullying, misunderstanding and isolation. Yet, it is told with such economy of words. It is written by someone who understands the value of words, and so these ones were carefully chosen. This book is a wonderful mentor text for effective and efficient word use.
"Believe it or not, as simple as this children's book was — all my other books are hundreds of pages ... it was hard to write because I didn't want to write it as an adult telling the story of my childhood. I wanted to go back inside and pull that child back out which has always been in there. But that child is a broken child, or at least a child who thought he was broken. And that was painful. I remember crying as I wrote this book. It's even painful now reading my own story because I never wished any young person to go through anything like that, that much pain." ~ Alan Rabinowitz
More on Dr. Alan Rabinowitz
To hear Dr. Alan talk about his childhood and writing this book on NPR, click here .
To watch a video of Dr. Alan talk about his work in conservation and this book, click here.
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