Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Chiru of High Tibet by Jacqueline Briggs Martin

The Chiru of High Tibet
by Jacqueline Briggs Martin
Illustrated by Linda Wingerter
Reading level: Ages 4-8
Hardcover: 40 pages
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children (September 27, 2010)
ISBN-13: 978-0618581306
Buy This Book on Amazon

An exciting and true tale about the remarkable antelope-like animals called Chiru and the humans who have both threatened and spared them from extinction. The chiru is a little-known relative of the sheep and goat and makes its home high in the mountains of Tibet. Their brilliantly soft wool is extremely valuable but unlike sheep, cannot be sheared. The greed of poachers to profit of these miniature creatures has subsequently resulted in mass killings and severe endangerment to their populations. Yet rather than focus on the terrible effects of a few terrible people, the real story takes heart in the heroic adventures of George B. Schaller and the 4 man crew that dedicated themselves to studying these mysterious animals and seeking protection of them under Chinese law. A conservation message told poetically by Briggs Martin that is more beautiful and hopeful than it is tragic.

I really enjoy Jacqueline Brigg's Martin's elegant way of writing nonfiction. At times poetic, at times factual, it ebbs and flows with cohesive lyricism that simplifies the story to its most essential bits. For as text heavy as it is, it still manages to feel light and airy. Probably not the most ideal book for reading aloud, but perfect for one on one or independent reading.

I admit it. If the brilliant Ms. Wingerter had not illustrated this book, I may never have even noticed it on the shelf. Being a huge fan of her other children's books and personal paintings, I knew that the Chiru book was in the works well before I finally came across it at the book store. And it does not disappoint. Her color palette is jaw-droppingly gorgeous and her simplification and stylization of people and environments brings the art to the appropriate age level but with characteristic sophistication. Her work is colorful, warm, and sensitive with a touch of folk art flair that truly compliments the story. Illustrated picture books like this are the reason why I fell in love with this industry to begin with. These books are pieces of art created by adults out of a sheer passion and love for beautiful pictures and story. A delight.

Any book that brings to light a little-known animal's journey from endangerment to hope has a place on my bookshelf. As a non-fiction read, it's one of the only places you can learn about this amazing story in such a comprehensive way. The conservation message is heartwarming, inspiring, and absolutely necessary for children of all ages. After all, the future of animal life and survival will be in their hands someday. Let's hope the chiru are not only still around at that point, but thriving.


Charlotte said...

Wow, those are lovely illustrations! I look for this one.

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