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It is not easy to be a snow leopard who needs his mother and doesn’t have one.  Likewise, it is not easy to be a human who needs to rescue and care for a wild animal.  But Leo and the people who saved him went to extraordinary measures to help one another.  This is their amazing story.

(from Leo the Snow Leopard)

A goat herder in the Karakoram mountains in Pakistan rescued a baby snow leopard whose mother was nowhere to be found.  Leo was hungry and alone, and this goat herder picked him up and carried him home.  When Leo became too big and too active to handle, the goat herder contacted the World Wildlife Fund, whose veterinarians determined that he was just seven weeks old and severely dehydrated.  Ultimately, the Bronx Zoo was chosen for Leo’s home, and the Wildlife Conservation Society, with help from the U.S. Department of State, took steps to bring Leo to New York.

Leo the Snow Leopard: The True Story of an Amazing Rescue by Juliana Hatkoff, Isabella Hatkoff, and their father, Craig Hatkoff, describes the rescue efforts in the steep mountains, where the roads were vulnerable to avalanches and landslides.  There are color photos of Leo from when he is first rescued by the goat herder and when he becomes a resident of the Bronx Zoo.  The Hatkoffs provide some general information about snow leopards, detail Leo’s transition to life in the zoo, and inform readers about the organizations instrumental in his rescue.

The Girl (age 10) and I both loved Leo the Snow Leopard.  It wasn’t hard to fall in love with the adorable Leo and feel great respect for those who helped save him.  I have a hard time reading sad animal stories, and I avoid them like the plague ever since listening to Marley & Me on a car trip a couple of years ago and bawling my eyes out while my husband chuckled.  But I can’t get enough of these hopeful, heart-warming animals stories.  (Another one to check out is Nubs, which The Girl and I reviewed last year.)

Leo the Snow Leopard is a picture book intended for readers ages 4 to 10, but adults will enjoy it, too.  Everything the rescue team endured and Leo’s survival in the harsh mountains make for a fascinating story.  And parents can use the book as an opportunity to discuss the need to protect endangered species, like the snow leopard, whose existence is threatened by poachers, the fact that herders’ animals are grazing on the grass that once was eaten by the wild sheep and goats that serve as the primary source of food for snow leopards, and the herders who kill snow leopards to protect their animals.  Both an educational tool and an uplifting story about the steps taken to protect a helpless animal, Leo the Snow Leopard is highly recommended for animal lovers of all ages.

Disclosure: We received a copy of Leo the Snow Leopard from Scholastic for review purposes. I am an Amazon associate.

© 2010 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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