Elem. – A Leopard Diary: My Journey into the Hidden World of a Mother and Her Cubs

Eszterhas, Suzi. A Leopard Diary: My Journey into the Hidden World of a Mother and Her Cubs. OwlkidsBooks, 2022. 978-1-771-47491-7. 40 p. $18.95. Grades 2-6.

Wildlife photographer Suzi Eszterhas, author of Moto and Me, returns with A Leopard Diary! Eszterhas specializes in photographing baby animals, and she jumped at the chance to photograph a female leopard and her two cubs in Botswana’s Jao Reserve, located in the Okavango Delta. In A Leopard Diary she has compiled her diary of the adventure, from the day she arrived at the Tubu Tree Camp through various return trips over the next two years. Her diary entries conversationally document the female cubs’ development, accompanied by full-color photos and lively page spreads that showcase their journey from cubs to sub-adults. The narrative culminates in the arrival of the Camp Female’s new baby, a male cub. As in all of Eszterhas’s books, the photographs are the star of the show. Many include captions that further explain the scenes so skillfully captured by her camera. The closing pages include an interview with Kambango (a guide and tracker who works in the reserve), information on Children in the Wilderness, and a useful list of Words to Know. 

THOUGHTS: The author’s love of both her profession and the wildlife she photographs shines through on every page. Readers will come away from A Leopard Diary with a new understanding of these big cats and their “hidden” lives in the bush.

599 Wildlife          Amy V. Pickett, Ridley SD

YA – The National Parks: Preserving America’s Wild Places

Koch, Falynn. The National Parks: Preserving America’s Wild Places. First Second, 2022. 978-1-250-26587-6. 120 p. $19.99. Grades 7-10.

A friendly Sasquatch is our guide through The National Parks, a recent entry in First Second’s History Comics series of graphic nonfiction for middle grade and teen readers. Today, our parks and national monuments successfully blend tourism with conservation of unique ecosystems (as well as history), but getting here was a circuitous path. When Congress established the National Park Service in 1916, it was in charge of thirteen national parks. Today the National Park System encompasses over 60 national parks and hundreds of additional federal park sites. In this conversational history of “America’s best idea” to preserve our wild places, author and illustrator Falynn Koch colorfully portrays the visionaries, politicians, Native Americans, wildlife, and occasional scoundrels who contributed to the evolution of our park system. She also addresses the forced removal of indigenous people from land that would eventually be parks: “If we don’t reexamine the past and face these grim truths, we can’t learn from them and make a better future” (92).

THOUGHTS: Rich with historical anecdotes and images of our varied parks, this one will have readers thinking, “The mountains are calling & I must go” (~ John Muir).

333 National Parks          Amy V. Pickett, Ridley SD

Elem./MG – Animals Back From the Brink (Series NF)

Animals Back From the Brink. Crabtree Publishing, 2020. $14.30 ea. $290.50 set of 14. 32p. Grades 3-6.

Bringing Back the American Alligator. 978-1-549-08040-1.
Bringing Back the Black-Footed Ferret. 978-1-725-44237-5.
Bringing Back the Blue Iguana. 978-1-725-48072-8.
Bringing Back the California Condor. 978-1-725-48073-5.
Bringing Back the Giant Panda. 978-1-549-08041-8.
Bringing Back the Gray Wolf. 978-1-549-08042-5.
Bringing Back the Grizzly Bear. 978-1-549-08043-2.
Bringing Back the Humpback Whale. 978-1-549-08044-9.
Bringing Back the Island Fox. 978-1-725-48074-2.
Bringing Back the Lesser Long-Nosed Bat. 978-1-725-44238-2.
Bringing Back the Mountain Gorilla. 978-1-725-44239-9.
Bringing Back the Snow Leopard. 978-1-725-44240-5.
Bringing Back the Southern White Rhino. 978-1-725-48075-9.
Bringing Back the Whooping Crane. 978-1-549-08045-6.

Readers will discover endangered species around the world. Each book begins with facts about the featured species including its habitat and an introduction to the dangerous factors contributing to extinction. Each book explains the scientific criteria that is used to figure out the levels of threat to each species, the historical and current threat to each species, and the problems environmental groups have had trying to protect them. Each book concludes with an explanation of future protection efforts and what the reader can do to help. The “Learning More” section of each book provides books and websites for the reader to learn more about the specific species featured.

THOUGHTS: A good supplement to an existing collection of  endangered species books and for libraries with patrons interested in this topic.

590 Animals     Jaynie Korzi, South Middleton SD

Elem. – Kodi

Cullum, Jared. Kodi. Top Shelf Productions. 2020. 978-1-603-09467-2. 176 p. $14.99. Grades 2-5.

While out on a walk near her grandmother’s Alaska summer house, comics-loving Katya encounters an enormous kodiak bear with its leg pinned under a fallen tree. Working together, Katya and “Meema” free the bear and mend his wounded paw. Katya and Kodi become fast friends (and an expert fishing team), so both are crestfallen when she must return to Seattle. When Kodi sees a tourist with a Seattle t-shirt, he realizes that stowing away on a cruise ship will deliver him to Katya. But finding a small girl in a big city requires some help; enter a fisherman named Joshua, who forms his own unique bond with the bear. Jared Cullum’s gorgeous watercolors portray a range of settings, emotions, and action with evocative style. Katya’s vulnerability is evident in her big eyes and slight build; her strength shows in her artwork and steadfastness. Kodi is both comically oversized and brawny, but gentle. Joshua, disabled in a previous fishing accident, is clever and kind. Readers who fly through the pages to find out what happens next will want to re-read, pausing to admire the mountain streams, city skylines, and ocean waves.

THOUGHTS: This beautifully illustrated graphic novel for young readers is also an homage to the power of friendship and creativity. Don’t miss this one!

Graphic Novel          Amy V. Pickett, Ridley SD

Elem – My Wild Life: Adventures of a Wildlife Photographer

Eszterhas, Suzi. My Wild Life: Adventures of a Wildlife Photographer. Owlkids Books, 2020. 978-1-771-47407-8. 31 p. $17.95. Grades 2-5.

Suzi Eszterhas always knew that she wanted to be a wildlife photographer. All of the hours she spent taking pictures of her cats in the backyard, observing squirrels and birds, and taking notes in her field book were great preparation for fulfilling that dream. Now, in a follow-up to her acclaimed 2017 release Moto and Me: My Year as a Wildcat’s Foster Mom, Eszterhas shares stories from over twenty years as a professional wildlife photographer. Two-page chapters on topics including “Prepping for Shoots,” “Living in the Field,” “Mothers and Babies,” and “Giving Back to Animals” feature plentiful full-color photographs. Meaningful captions add context and special behind-the-scenes information. In the final chapter, “Ask Suzi,” the author answers questions about the best part of her job, how to become a wildlife photographer, and her most memorable wildlife experiences. She also shouts out her organization, Girls Who Click, which helps girls fulfill their dreams of becoming wildlife photographers themselves. Moto and Me chronicled the year that Eszterhas spent fostering an orphaned serval and his growth from helpless kitten to independent cat. My Wild Life casts a wider net, featuring images of many different species and parts of the world.

THOUGHTS: With an eye toward conservation, Eszterhas presents a candid memoir of her wild life and career, acknowledging the challenges as well as the rewards. Young readers will love her story, and they will love her photographs even more!

770, Wildlife Photography          Amy V. Pickett, Ridley SD