Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A Life in the Wild - and a free giveaway!

A friend recently said to me that she wanted her son (entering 5th grade) to read some biographies this summer. As her son gets older, she wants him to read about people who have struggled to achieve a dream in their lives. One of the challenges reading biographies is to find stories that will capture an older child’s imagination.

A Life in the Wild: George Schaller's Struggle to Save the Last Great Beasts is a fantastic read for children in grades 5 through 8. It tells the story of field biologist George Schaller, and follows many of his studies, from the gorillas in West Africa to the tigers in India. Read on to find out about a chance to win a copy of this book!
A Life in the Wild: George Schaller's struggle to save the last great beasts
By Pamela S. Turner
NY: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2008.
Ages 10 – 14
Tuner has created a vivid, moving biography of George Schaller, a researcher who transformed field biology with his studies of gorillas, tigers, lions, and other wild creatures around the globe. In the nineteenth-century, biologists studied exotic animals by with the approach: “find it, kill it, examine the corpse.” Schaller knew he could study these endangered animals by observing them in the wild. After his initial studies in Alaska, Schaller worked for two years in the Belgian Congo studying the mountain gorillas. Next, he observed lions in Tanzania for three years, tracked the elusive snow leopard through the Himalayas for six years, and spend five years working with the pandas in China. Middle school students will like the way this biography moves from place to place. Each chapter focuses on a different animal, and Turner creates suspense with her descriptions of the challenges that Schaller faced.

I particularly liked the way that you get a sense of Schaller living in the wild with his family. George's wife Kay and young sons moved first to India and then to Africa with him. Kay and the boys experienced first hand many of the wild animals George was studying.
"One female cheetah raised two cubs near Seronera (the Schaller's home in Tanzania), and George and Kay grew to know her well. They heard the mother cheetah call her cubs with chirps and chirrs, sounding more like a bird than a cat. When the cubs were half-grown, kay saw the mother cheetah bring her daughters a live gazelle fawn. The cubs needed to learn the family business: chase, knock down, grab by the throat, and hold until dead. After several inept tries the cubs managed to knock the fawn down, but their mother had to handle the killing."
This is a wonderful book for kids to read to see that you can follow your dreams. From a young age, Schaller loved animals. He found a way to pursue his interests, developing his knowledge and leading scientists from all over the world in developing new respect for the natural world.

A Life in the Wild has won the 2008 Golden Kite Award for children's nonfiction from the Society of Children's Writers and Illustrators, as well as the Northern California Book Award for Children's Literature. For other reviews, you can see Chasing Ray or the National Science Teachers Association.

Fantastic Giveaway: Would you like your own copy of A Life in the Wild? Leave a comment (click the word "comments" below), or email Great Kid Books by June 7th. Tell me why you think your child would like to read it. For a bonus entry, email me the email addresses of 5 friends you think would like to know about my blog. I'll do a random drawing and send you a copy of this fantastic book!

Find the book at the Berkeley Public Library and the Oakland Public Library. You can buy it online at IndieBound independent bookstores or Amazon.


  1. I've reserved this one for my god daughter, who is in 6th grade. Thanks for the suggestion!

  2. Hey, I'm Carl and I work for the library system in Charlotte, NC. I also joined Kidlitosphere recently. I help run a blog called Boys Rule! Boys Read! that recommends books for boys 9-12 or 14 years old. I'd like a copy as a giveaway; possibly to use as a prize. If that's not a valid reason, I also have an 8-year-old daughter who reads far above her years and she loves wild animals. Thanks so much and check out our blog at or Google the title of opur blog.

  3. Hi, my nine-year-old daughter loves to read about wild animals (especially the feline species) and could use some inspiration. I think your friend's idea that her son would benefit from reading biographies is a great idea. Would love to win and know the book will benefit whoever nabs it. Thank you.

  4. This sounds like an excellent biography. :o) Schaller and his family lived AWESOME lives - lucky kids!

  5. My nine year old daughter would absolutey LOVE this book!

    ajcmeyer AT go DOT com

  6. Thank you for the giveaway. This sounds something like my son would love to read, he enjoys reading and loves animals.

  7. looks interesting mrs.mommyyatgmaildotcom

  8. My daughter is 9. She loves animals. She usually gets some type of animal book whenever we go to the library. She would love this.


  9. Wow, I want to read this book! So, I know my nine year old would be too excited about it. Her dream is to one day become a vet at a zoo. Thanks for this wonderful giveaway, and for the insightful blogging.

  10. My daughter is very interested in animals, and wants to be a veterinarian. I think this book would be great for her!

  11. Hi,
    Inspiring stories are needed today more than ever. I find that just talking about current events at the dinner table sparks both interest and concern for my eight-year old son. He would greatly enjoy a story of this spirit and hope, particularly since we are an outdoor family and he loves animals--his favorite is a cheetah. Thank you for the great information.

  12. We and our children need inspiring stories today more than ever. I find that just sitting around the dinner table talking about current events often interests but also concerns my eight-year old son. A story that shows how hard work and perseverance yields meaningful success is a gift and my son, who loves animals and the outdoors, would treasure it. Thank you.

  13. My daughter loves animals so this would be perfect for her.

    madamerkf at aol dot com

  14. My daughter loves animals!! Any kind of animals!! So, she loves to read books about them.


  15. I think my niece who loves animals would really enjoy this.
    Thanks for the giveaway!

  16. My son is 10 and while I have encouraged reading his entire life, his love of books has waned over the last year. This saddens me. I continue to seek books that will spark his interest in order to re-ignite the enjoyment he once showed. He loves adventure and animals so I would be thrilled at the chance to win this book for him. Thanks!