by Gabriella Francine
with Solara Vayanian
Phil Velikan, illustrator
Big Blue Marble Books
About the Book: Orangutans are an endangered species in Southeast Asia and China. Where there were once hundreds of thousands of orangutans, there are now only approximately 60,000. Those animals are all located on two islands: Borneo and Sumatra. We Can Help Orangutans talks about the orangutan’s life and skills, but is mostly a tool for saving the endangered species by encouraging children to save their change in jars for the orangutans. There are two organizations involved: Kinds With Coins and Coins for Causes.
Orangutans have similar traits to humans including the all-important opposable thumb. These smart creatures create and use tools. A large leaf becomes an umbrella on a hot, sunny, or rainy day. Sticky chins are wiped clean with leaf napkins and fingers are protected from thorny plants when leafs are made into gloves.
The orangutan lives in a nest in the tree. With logging—legal and illegal—along with palm oil plantations remove and destroy orangutan homes. One way people, especially kids, can help is by collecting spare change and sending that to the two organizations listed above.
What I Thought: Orangutans definitely are near extinct. Without education, new laws, better enforcement of those laws, and increased aid to the orangutan populations, extinction is certain, possibly within the next ten years. Books like We Can Help Orangutans help educate the next group of leaders but that might be too late. The book stresses action needs to occur now. What I really liked about We Can Help Orangutans is the lack of heavy-handed efforts. The book introduces the orangutan including its likes, abilities, eating habits, and where they live.
What is odd about We Can Help Orangutans is the lack of any real information about either organization the text wants kids to send their coins. Neither Kids with Coins or Coins for Causes has a listing in the reference section. The website address for both organizations is glaringly absent from the book. The logos for both organizations are on the back cover. It is up to you to find them. This makes no sense for a book that explicitly states kids should take their coins and donate them to one of these two.
We Can Help Orangutans has enough information about orangutans that classrooms could use the text when teaching about endangered species, the loss of natural habitats, and of course, orangutans. I like the book, I like how the book is arranged, and I think it has enough information for kids to begin caring about the plight of endangered species, orangutans in particular.
We Can Help Orangutans gives kids the information they need to understand and like orangutans, and then asks kids to help save them. I think that is a smart formula. Kids can learn enough about these mammals to like them and want to know more. The references in the back of the book—all with website addresses—and the organizations with comments on the back cover, give kids a great assortment of information. If you want to donate your coins you will need to find out that information on your own.
with Solara Vayanian linkedin
Big Blue Marble Books website
Released October 1, 2013
Age 6 to 9
© 2013 by Big Blue Marble Books, used with permission
Test copyright © 2013 by Gabriella Francine & Solara Vayanian
Photographs © by various individuals; list on credit page