Anna Merz was determined to protect endangered animals in East Africa.
Poachers were killing rhinos for their horns, and Anna Merz, a white woman at the end of a career in wildlife conservation, decided to do something about it. She started a sanctuary in Kenya on thousands of acres of land called Lewa Downs, on the northern slope of Mount Kenya. Kirk humanizes (rhino-izes?) Anna’s story by focusing on one rhinoceros calf Anna named Samia. Anna reads aloud to Samia, feeds her a special formula, gives her free run of her house, and even learns to interpret some of Samia’s vocalizations. Knowing that Samia needs to learn to be free and able to survive in the wild, Anna finds a patron and creates the Ngare Sergoi Rhino Sanctuary. Somehow, Kirk imbues Samia with personality without too much anthropomorphizing, and though Anna saves her, Samia saves the story, offering great appeal for young readers and moving the lively narrative along with her antics. As well-rounded a character as Samia is and as heroic as Anna Merz seems, however, no black Africans are included in the story, a void given the Kenya setting. The only other person included is David Craig (in the author’s note), the white owner of the 45,000-acre cattle ranch and donor of land for the wildlife sanctuary.
A solid introduction to wildlife conservation, but it misses the mark in providing a full context for the story. (Informational picture book. 4-8)