A Boy and a Jaguar
Written By: Alan Rabinowitz
Illustrated By: Catia Chien
Published: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt – New York, NY, May 6th, 2014
Awards: Schneider Family Book Award Winner – 2015, PW’s Best Books – 2014, Picture Books; Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People – 2015, Children’s; ALA Notable Books for Children – 2015, Younger Readers: Green Earth Book Award Shortlist – 2015, Ezra Jack Keats Award New Writer Honor – 2015
Themes: A true story unravels an extraordinary tell of a young boy and his fondness for animals – especially jaguars. As the story progress this love for animals transforms into themes about giving a voice to the voiceless, and overcoming hardships that one can not control.
Summary: A boy has a love for animals (but most importantly jaguars), and what is truly amazing is that the boy can talk to his animal friends. However, the young boy can not speak to anyone else because he has a stutter. He finds refuge within the animal world – as they too do not have a voice and these are the only creatures that seem to understand him. He makes a final promise to them to give them a voice, if he too can find his own. As the story progresses we see this young boy grow into someone miraculous.
Response: What was the main problem that the main character faces? How is this problem similar to a problem that most children have faced before? How does it relate to your own experiences?
The main problem that the character faces is his disability. Many children will go through and struggle with a disability or a physical/cognitive difference from the majority of their peers at some point in their educational journeys. With this story, I really respect the fact that the end of the book embraces overcoming the disability, and STILL having it. The main character learns to work with his stutter, but still (at times) struggles with having a disability – which is crucial for students who also struggle with a disability to understand.
For myself, I watched as my older brother struggled and continuously had battles he had to face in his education. With referrals, placements, teachers not expecting much of him, and people using his disability to poke fun at him – I feel he never got the valuable instruction nor was he taught how to overcome the label, to which hinder his general abilities today.