Joanne L. McGonagle,
The Tiniest Tiger
(BookSurge, 2008)

On the surface, it's a cute little children's story about a lost kitten that wanders into a zoo and talks to all the big cats there in an effort to find a new home.

But the not-so-subtle message in Joanne L. McGonagle's The Tiniest Tiger is that the wonderful diversity of the world's big cats -- from lions and tigers to jaguars and ocelots -- is at risk of being lost forever.

As the kitten roams from habitat to habitat, the reader's eye is drawn to the helpful "key facts" signs that illuminate just a few details of each species on display. Besides a few basics -- average size and life expectancy, for instance -- you'll notice that each species there is endangered. Meanwhile, through the brief conversations held between the kitten and each cat it meets, you'll learn just a little bit about the similarities and differences among them. The colorful watercolor illustrations, also by McGonagle, draw readers even more deeply into the tale -- although there are a few more glaring white pages with nothing but text than you should find in a children's book.

You won't learn a lot about cats here, but young readers should come away with some level of understanding that these cats require protection or else we'll lose them for good. The message, however, is wrapped in a short, entertaining story that will hold young readers' attention.

Still, while a good children's book can be read over and over again, at some point, a child is going to want to know more. This book might have benefitted from a short section at the end providing a little more detail for children who'd like additional information about the cats or what it means to be endangered.

A portion of the proceeds from sales of this book will benefit cat preservation efforts.

review by
Tom Knapp

22 November 2008

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