BookDragon Books for the Diverse Reader

Saving the Baghdad Zoo: A True Story of Hope and Heroes by Kelly Milner Hall with Major William Sumner

Saving the Baghdad ZooWhen I hear “collateral damage,” one thing I’ve never thought of before (I know, shame on me!) are the animals! And how much more tragic are the animals trapped in cages … like in zoos?

Here’s a wake-up call disguised as a children’s book … in times of war, what happens to the animals? Amazingly enough, many of the inhabitants of the Baghdad Zoo found an unlikely savior in an American soldier, Captain William Sumner (since promoted to Major), who was originally deployed to Iraq in 2003 as a civil affairs officer.

As a trained archeologist, Sumner arrived expecting to “work with the Iraqis to restore their cultural heritage.” Instead, he inherited the rescue of a “‘small zoo’ [which] turned out to be one of the largest zoos in the Middle East, plus three palace zoos and a number of other animal collections.”

To even softly utter that saving lives in wartime is a challenge is beyond understatement. But when those who need rescuing have four legs and don’t speak any languages you can readily understand, the challenge becomes infinitely more complicated. Veteran children’s author Kelly Milner Halls carefully captures Summer’s story of lions, tigers, and bears – oh my! – who along with a menagerie of other animals managed to survive the death and destruction all around them.

Whatever your stance on this seemingly neverending, incomprehensible “war on terror,” here’s a reminder to celebrate some of war’s most unexpected heroes.

Readers: Children, Middle Grade

Published: 2010


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