Monday, September 9, 2013

Jasper's Story: Saving Moon Bears by Jill Robinson and Mark Bekoff, illustrated by Gijsbert van Frankenhuyzen

I have to be honest and confess that until I read Jasper's Story I had never heard of a Moon Bear.  Moon Bears, like the panda, are native to Asia and are, sadly, captured and put into extraction cages so that the bile produced by their liver can be extracted and used to make herbal medicine.

Jasper's Story is about one Moon Bear, who was rescued from its captivity and brought to the Moon Bear Rescue Centre in Chengdu, China.  In this lovely picture book, Jill Robinson, founder of the centre, shows how, little by little, Jasper is slowly introduced to the people who will care for him and nurse him back to good health and how, as he becomes used to his new den, he is able go out and play with the other rescued bears.  In fact, Jasper seems to have quite a playful side to his personality.

Jasper's life as an extraction bear is given coverage, and there are some illustrations of the small, confining cages that he was kept in, but much to Jill Robinson's credit, this is done skillfully and tastefully so that it doesn't scare or upset young readers.  Robinson focuses most of Jasper's Story on the time that Jasper spends at the rescue centre, his recovery and his newly gained freedom.

Teaching young readers about the exploitation and mistreatment of animals can be a real slippery slope for writers, but Robinson has done an exceptional job of it in this picture book for older readers.  In addition, Jasper's Story has been realistically illustrated by Gijsbert van Frankenhuyzen in rich earth and sky tones that betrayal his own love of nature and wildlife.

Jasper has become the face of successful moon bear rescue and efforts to stop bile extraction in Asia.  There is also interesting and informative back matter about Jasper in particular and moon bears in general, written by Robinson, van Frankenhuyzen and Marc Bekoff, an animal behavior specialist and Professor Emeritus that shouldn't be missed.

Jasper today

This book is recommended for readers age 7+
This book was borrowed from the NYPL

Nonfiction Monday is hosted this week by Wendie's Wanderings

This is book 10 of my Nonfiction Picture Book Reading Challenge hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy


  1. Sounds like a perfect read aloud Alex. Love the message here.

    1. Yes, it would be a perfect read aloud and the message about saving animals from being exploited is a wonderful message.

  2. A gem for teachers to use as a crossover to many different topics in the curriculum.

  3. This is the first time I’ve read about moon bears and the extraction of bile. How horrible! There is lots more information at the Moon Bear Rescue Centre website, but it doesn’t make for very happy reading. How amazing that a picture book can grab our attention in such a way. Thank you for sharing this Alex, I do hope it helps to get this cruel practice stopped.


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