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They knew danger was near, and it was a bad thing that Gus had run off.  They cried out for him over and over.  But this was bad, too, because there were men very close by.  One of those men was Hunter, out looking for orangutans to capture and sell.

(from Miracle in Sumatra, page 14)

Miracle in Sumatra: The Story of Gutsy Gus is a picture book written by Jeanne McNaney and illustrated by David Cochard that aims to educate children about wildlife conservation.  Gus is a young orangutan living a carefree life in Sumatra with his parents, Xera and Cornelius.  He is supposed to be waiting for his parents when a young girl named Maya tempts him with a banana, and while searching for him, his parents are caught by Hunter, a man who makes money by trapping and selling orangutans and other animals.

The book has a spiritual aspect to it, as Gabriella, a heavenly angel, keeps watch over Sumatra’s forests, and she calls on Maya — whose father runs a company that chops down trees and sells the wood for construction — to help Gus rescue his parents.  Both Maya and Gus are young, but they are brave enough to take on the challenge before them.

The Girl and I read Miracle in Sumatra over the weekend, and right away, we both commented on how much we liked the vivid illustrations.  Gus is so cute and his bond with his parents so strong that it’s hard not to root for him, and children can identify with Maya and her innocence, as she believes it would be fun to take Gus home with her to play dress up.  I think it’s never too early to teach kids about the environment and the need to protect endangered species.

The only thing I didn’t like about the book was the spiritual angle.  When Gabriela prays to God to help Maya understand how she can help Gus, God transforms her into an orangutan so she can see, speak, and feel exactly like Gus.  I have no problem suspending disbelief for a children’s story, but I didn’t expect this, and I think I would have rather seen how Maya as a young girl could speak out against what she deems to be an injustice.  Still, after reading how it all plays out, I think McNaney accomplished what she set out to accomplish.

According to the book flap, “A percentage of all profits from the sale of this book will go to organizations that support wildlife conservation and endangered species preservation.”

Here’s what The Girl (age 9) had to say about Miracle in Sumatra:

I thought this was a cute book for younger kids.  I felt bad when Gus’ parents were captured, and I thought it was weird when the girl became an orangutan.  But I liked it.

Disclosure: We received a copy of Miracle in Sumatra from Phenix & Phenix Literary Publicists 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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