SONWA 2015 Children’s Book Award Winner

By Eileen Van Pernis, SONWA Children’s Book Committee

The Children’s Book Committee of the Sigurd F. Olson Award (SONWA) is proud to announce the 2015 winner, Alan Rabinowitz, author of A Boy and a Jaguar, about a stuttering boy and a caged animal.

 A Boy and a Jaguar is a deep, touching and powerful autobiographical story from Alan Rabinowitz. As a boy, Rabinowitz was a severe stutterer who could only speak fluently to his pets or to a jaguar in the Bronx Zoo. He is sympathetic towards and can relate to animals because like him they have no voice. He promised himself as a child “if I can ever find my voice, I will be their voice and keep them from harm.”

Rabinowitz’s love of animals drive his choice to become a zoologist. During his graduate studies he is given the chance to study jaguars in Belize, where he wants to ask the government to establish a jaguar preserve. He is given only fifteen minutes to speak and surprisingly persuades the Belize government to set up the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary and Jaguar Preserve.

The parallelism in this book between the stuttering boy and the caged animal is piercing. Alan and the jaguar find a human to animal bond and give a picture to us of how finding similar circumstances in nature can heal. It is a lovely expression of a debilitating speech impediment turned into a passion that helps save creatures without a voice. The illustrator of the book compliments the writing with her brilliantly colored illustrations and full-page layout. Catia Chien captures the emotions of the main character and gives depth to him. This work is full of inspiration and the fulfillment of a promise.

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