Two intrepid librarians

Two intrepid librarians review the best nonfiction books for children

Friday, August 26, 2011

Can We Save the Tiger? by Martin Jenkins

Can We Save the Tiger?
by Martin Jenkins
illustrated by Vicky White
Candlewick Press, 2011
ISBN: 9780763649098
The reviewer obtained a copy of the book from her local library.

There has been a lot of buzz in the kidlit world about Can We Save the Tiger? ever since it was released in February. You might wonder why we haven't reviewed it yet. We launched The Nonfiction Detectives blog in late April, so we were just getting our site off the ground when bloggers and reviewers were singing the book's praises. So without further adieu, here is our review of Can We Save the Tiger?

Martin Jenkins and Vicky White have teamed up to create a beautiful tribute to endangered animals in the nonfiction picture book, Can We Save the Tiger? The book begins with an ode to extinct species (marsupial wolf, Stellar's sea cow, et al.) before the author turns his attention to endangered animals from around the globe such as the white-rumped vulture and the American bison. Using a narrative style and language accessible to young readers, Jenkins provides information about what caused various species to become endangered.

"Tigers are big and they're beautiful and they're fierce. And all this makes life difficult for them these days... And because they're beautiful, people have always hunted them for their skins. They also kill them for their bones and meat to use as medicines."

Martin doesn't oversimplify the problems that led to species dying out, instead he points out the complexities and different points of view that make the problems difficult to solve. For example, the author asks readers to see tigers from the point of view of a poor farmer in India:

"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 could earn in three whole months working in the field, then you might find it tempting to set a trap or two, even if you knew it was against the law."

Vicky White's detailed pencil sketches complement the information perfectly. Many of the illustrations are black and white accompanied by captions that contain facts about the animals. At times, oil paints are used to add a touch of color. White captures the spirit and beauty of each animal, big and small. The illustration of the tiger (also pictured on the cover) feels like it's a live animal looking right at the reader. Another page that stood out features a small illustration of a partula snail on a vast white background representing how few partula snails are left in the whole world. A stoic bison is pictured on another page illustrated in muted brown colors. The shading and textures make the illustration seem like a photograph. There is so much to appreciate in each illustration.  Children will want to read this book over and over again.

Can We Save the Tiger? would make an excellent read aloud in an elementary classroom, and it's the perfect gift book for a young reader. Librarians should plan to add it to their nonfiction collections. It's a true gem and may inspire young readers to make a difference in the world.

6 Stars
Award worthy! Unfortunately, it appears that the illustrator lives in England and does not qualify for the Caldecott Medal. Sibert Medal, perhaps?
(Grades K-4)

Can We Save the Tiger? was also reviewed by:
Kid Lit Frenzy:
Teach Mentor Texts:
A Year of Reading:


  1. Thanks for participating in STEM Friday today!
    :-) Anastasia

  2. Isn't this a lovely book? It does make you think, although it is a bit disheartening.

  3. Hooray for the kakapo - and this book! (Hi Louise!)