In the “vast and boundless” wilderness, a leopard roams in hopes he’s not alone.
Searching for another of its kind, the leopard encounters the harshness of nature. Thirsty, he can drink “only on rainy days” as the rest of the time “the sun beat[s] down…like a burning fireball in the sky.” Days into his journey, still “not a single leopard” is to be found. Soon he does, however, meet several creatures, including a pigeon, a groundhog, and an oak tree—each one wondering if it too is the only one of its kind left in the world. In each exchange, the leopard comforts his new acquaintance and is comforted in return. Despite his discouragement, he continues to rally and to persist. A final encounter with a pond after a rainstorm brings bittersweet solace. Cao’s patient, undeterred leopard is compelling, though the storytelling can be unsubtle if heartbreaking (particularly the conclusion). The uncredited translation feels stilted at times, and line breaks in wordy passages as well as the text placement sometimes disrupt the flow. Li’s textured full-color art depicts the wilderness primarily in blues, yellows, and browns. Rainy spreads set in black highlight the leopard’s relief in quenching his thirst and work in contrast to the leopard’s climactic water encounter, done in the dominant palette.
A contemplative, sobering extinction story. (Picture book. 6-9)