When goatherd Khalid loses a kid high in Oman’s mountains, he discovers the hidden home of an old man who introduces him to animals who lived there long ago and helps him find surviving leopards, spoiling the boy's uncle's plans to sell the land.
This gentle, environmentally hopeful tale pleases on many levels. To begin with, it’s a good story, deftly told. Johnson brings readers right in as Khalid spends a scary night alone on the dark mountain. Details of the landscape and of daily life in this unfamiliar Arabian world are woven smoothly into the third-person narration, while the suspense rises as the boy realizes that there might be leopards on the mountain and begins to defy his uncle. During a long wait at a hidden water hole, Khalid puts two and two together about his uncle’s activities, but the violent climax happens offstage. In a satisfying resolution, the rest of the villagers also get to see the beautiful animals. While this is a story about endangered species and the importance of the protection of a whole ecosystem, the lesson is implicit rather than explicit, appropriately simplified for young readers. The author has lived in and written about the Persian Gulf region for many years; her knowledge and love for that area shows.
Unique and refreshing; a book about the Arab world that isn't about war or oil. (Fiction. 8-12)