A Boy and a Jaguar

Alan Rabinowitz, illus by Cátia Chien. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-547-87507-1
In his first book for children, conservationist and adult author Rabinowitz frames his lifelong struggle with stuttering against his equally long-held love of animals, which led to a career spent studying and advocating for them. “I am a stutterer,” he explains. “If I try to push words out, my head and body shake uncontrollably.” The first-person present-tense narration creates an intimate connection to the author’s pain as he is placed “in a class for disturbed children,” subjected to unsuccessful treatments, and considered “broken” and disruptive by teachers. With animals, however, his words flow easily, and a young Alan promises a lonely jaguar at the Bronx Zoo: “If I can ever find my voice, I will be their voice and keep them from harm.” Shadowy charcoal lines and the often-muted colors of Chien’s paintings amplify Alan’s solitude, but also reflect the profound joy, wonder, and healing he discovers studying animals in the wild. It’s a candid and deeply resonant account of a hard-fought battle against societal stigma, and an embrace of one’s true talent and calling. Ages 4–8. Author’s agent: Anna Olswanger, Liza Dawson Associates. Illustrator’s agent: Steven Malk, Writers House. (May)
Reviewed on: 03/03/2014
Release date: 05/06/2014
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