nonfiction nuggets…leopard lessons in a snowy school

snow school cover image1Snow School, by Sandra Markle, illustrated by Alan Marks
published 2013 by Charlesbridge

Yesterday we were trekking across the dusty Sahara, with heat puckering the air and sand blasting our skin. (I’m referring to the marvelous book, Mysterious Traveler in yesterday’s post.)

Today, we’re shivering in the arctic blasts high in the Hindu Kush Mountains of Pakistan. That’s because snow leopards — those highly elusive, fascinating cats — make their home here, in “some of the world’s highest and most rugged mountains.”

We’re peeking in on a most extraordinarysnow school illustration alan marks sight — twin snow leopard cubs, just one week old. It’s an extraordinary sight because of the rarity of snow leopards — perhaps only 3,500 live in the wild — and the almost phantom world of snow leopards — they are extremely difficult to observe in their lonesome, nearly-inaccessible alpine haunts.

These beautiful, spotted cubs have critical lessons to snow school illustration2 alan markslearn in order to survive, and over the course of a year we watch their mother teach them Leoparding 101. Lessons in the Dangers of Golden Eagles, Keeping Quiet While Observing the Ibex, and Killing Prey are a snow leopard’s ABCs.

Sandra Markle has won awards for her clear, captivating nonfiction, and I have enjoyed immensely a number of her titles, such as Hip-Pocket Papa. Her succinct, sensory text is accessible to kindergarten and up, she packs in loads of intriguing information, and still tantalizes us with the romance of this mysterious, frosty, carnivore’s life.

Alan Marks has teamed up with Markle previously. His stunning watercolors will have you shivering even if you do happen to live somewhere warm (ie. not Minnesota!) and holding your breath with wonder over the life led in these spectacular, vast mountains.

Interested in learning more? Try the lengthier account, Saving the Ghost of saving the ghost of the mountain cover imagethe Mountain: An Expedition Among Snow Leopards in Mongolia, by Sy Montgomery, photographs by Nic Bishop — one of my favorite nonfiction teams ever.