I Am Cheetah: The Gift
Stephanie J. Teer
Graphic Brains Press (2014)
Reviewed by Eve Panzer, The Barefoot Librarian, for Reader Views Kids (04/2021)
“I Am Cheetah” is part of a series of books Stephanie J. Teer is launching to educate children aged 5-10 about endangered species. Sprinkled throughout the story and woven seamlessly with the narrative are specific details about cheetahs. Endnotes provide additional facts. The author realistically addresses bullying. This high-interest book is accessible to young readers who want to read chapter books but are not quite ready for the reading level of many chapter books.
The story features three siblings (Nathan, David, and their little sister, Gabby) and their friends who are wildlife enthusiasts and meet every week for Park Day at Safari Park. The middle brother David has been learning about cheetahs and shares his newly acquired knowledge with the group. The children decide to form a club and learn more about various endangered species. The older brother Nathan has a surprise for his siblings and friends that involves imagination and a touch of magic, allowing the children to interact with cheetah cubs.
“I Am Cheetah” has broad appeal. The characters are diverse in age (5 –11 years), ethnicity, gender, and personality. Characters are doing activities and behaving in ways relatable to the intended reading audience. The author is successful in capturing the authentic voices of children in this age group. The magic necessary to allow the children to interact with the cheetah cubs is complex but does not detract from the story. However, the section of the book where the children are interacting with the cheetah cubs drags on a little long. Dispersed throughout the book are black and white illustrations. These add to the story and help break up the text, making the book less intimidating for early readers. The story would also make a great read-aloud.
The book touches upon several valuable and relevant themes that parents and educators can expound upon and discuss. There is the overarching, critical theme of endangered species. The author also adds a geographic element, as the children discuss their parent’s and grandparent’s travels in Africa.
Also included is an ESL component (emotional and social learning) – bullying. Presenting the target and perpetrator’s points of view, the author creates a successful blueprint to address bullies. Behind every bully, there is usually a reason for their behavior. By listening to their side with empathy and acknowledging their feelings, one can help the bully overcome their behavior.
The author is successful in so many ways – realistic characters, situations, and dialog; important topics (endangered species and bullying); and engaging story. The author is working with a third-grade teacher to create an “Educational/Teacher Guide” for each book. Concrete actions children could take to make a positive impact saving endangered species would be a beneficial addition. I am excited that this is the first in a series of books from this author about endangered species. I AM WOLF has been released and is to be followed by I AM RED PANDA in April.