Educator and doctoral student Mähler offers an imaginative debut folk tale featuring animals, trees, humans, and even planets as characters.
The eponymous jaguar, Oracle, lives in the Yucatán Peninsula, where he rescues a monarch butterfly with a broken wing. She tells him the story of the Rio Grande Valley in south Texas, where jaguars ruled until the last one was killed about 70 years ago. Oracle then embarks on a journey to the Rio Grande that takes several months. Along the way, he communicates with living creatures of all types, including a legendary being known as the Lonely Tree. As he approaches his destination, he assists in the rescue of a young boy he calls “Miracle”; he and his parents were trying to illegally enter the United States by boat, but when their vessel sank, Miracle (whose real name is Paco) washed ashore alone. With the help of the local bird community, Patch the raccoon, Plod the workhorse, and Bog the toad, Oracle nurses Miracle back to health. Later, when a farmer finds Miracle trespassing on his property and attempts to turn him in to the authorities, the animals rescue him again. The animals’ adoption of Miracle is rather derivative of Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book, although the boy is only under their care for a relatively short period of time. Overall, this brief tale’s intended audience is unclear; the writing style, with its occasionally iridescent prose, employs a vocabulary that’s far too advanced for younger readers, but the subject matter may not appeal to most adults. However, although the story requires readers to suspend their disbelief on many levels, it’s a beautifully written, engaging tale of friendship that transcends language and even species. The animals’ whimsical names for man-made abominations—“manmachines” for cars and “black boxes” for televisions, among others—are amusing, even as they also remind readers how humans have destroyed environments for the sake of convenience.
Readers with a love for the mystical and fantastical will enjoy this unique tale.