Jenkins, Martin. 2011. Can We Save the Tiger? Ill. By Vicky White. Somerville, MA: Candlewick.
Martin Jenkins explains extinction and its causes in a manner that, while factual, is also conversational and thought provoking. Consider his opening paragraphs that inspire an immediate sense of wonder combined with an easy familiarity,
The world’s quite a big place, you know. But it’s not that big, when you consider how much there is to squeeze into it.After a cursory introduction to extinction, he offers the varying reasons for why creatures have become extinct – poaching, invasive non-native species, over-hunting, chemical poisoning. Each time, he hints that problems are not so easily solved. Take the tiger for example,
After all, it’s home not just to billions of people, but to the most amazing number of other kinds of living things, too. And we’re all jostling for space.
…they’re big, they need a lot of space. But the countries where they live, like India and Indonesia, have huge numbers of people in them too, all trying to make a living and needing to be fed. …Jenkins looks at failures (the Dodo, the Great Auk and others), successes (the Buffalo, the White Rhinoceros, the Kakapos, and more) and other works in progress. In each case, he presents the conundrum of competing interests or unintended consequences in a manner easily understood by young readers. Text size, too, is inviting to younger readers – smaller text is punctuated by sections of very large font print.
So if you were a poor farmer trying to make a living with a couple of cows and a few goats, you might not be too happy if you found there was a hungry tiger living nearby. And if you knew that someone might pay you more for a tiger skin and some bones than you earn in three whole months working in the fields, then you might find it very tempting to set a trap or two, even if you knew it was against the law.
Similarly to Jim Arnosky’s Thunder Birds, field-style pencil sketches accompany many pages. Vicky White’s larger illustrations are done in pencil and oil paint with lightly sketched backgrounds, or on plain cream-colored pages. The large and realistic illustrations are accompanied by basic facts including habitat, size, diet, life span, and existing population. An index and online resources complete the book.
A small final illustration of the rare Sander’s Slipper Orchid hints that not only creatures are in danger of extinction; or perhaps the illustration hints at a future book. The over sized book has sturdy pages that, although they have a matte finish, have a smooth and creamy texture - like icing on the cake. A beautiful and affecting book.
Can We Save the Tiger? is a 2011 Cybils finalist in the Nonfiction Picture Book category.