A simple memoir recounts a lifelong bond between a child who felt “broken” and the animals, especially jaguars, that have informed his life’s work.
The narrator explains his teachers must think he is “broken” when he is switched from his regular class due to his severe stuttering. But he can talk with his own small menagerie at home—in fact, he says, he can only speak fluently when he is singing or when he talks to animals. He promises the sad, caged jaguar at the Bronx Zoo that one day he will be a voice for the animals. In college, he finds ways to manage his stuttering; as an adult, he studies black bears and, later, jaguars. In a triumphant moment, he helps persuade Belize to set aside land as a jaguar preserve. Chien’s acrylic-and–charcoal-pencil art is filled with light and warm, rich colors, her edge-to-edge illustrations inviting, emotional and engaging. The forests of Belize are seen as deeply gray-green, a few animal faces peeking from the thick growth of vegetation. A note about Rabinowitz along with a brief Q-and-A pitched to young understanding confirm the promise kept: The author continues to use his voice to advocate for big cats throughout the world, as well as for stutterers.
Moving and sweetly resonant. (Picture book/biography. 3-8)