When Suzi Eszterhas was a kid, she told her mom that when she grew up, she was going to live in a tent in Africa. And she did. She became a wildlife photographer and spent three years living in a tent on the Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya. While there, a park ranger asked if she would help raise an orphaned serval. (Servals are mid-sized, spotted wildcats found in Africa, and they are considered at risk in some regions, due to habitat loss and hunting.)
The serval kitten was just two weeks old when she got him. She named him Moto, and he needed a lot of care—she bottle fed him, groomed him with a toothbrush, and carried him around in a cloth pouch when he was too young to be left alone. As he grew, she helped him learn the skills he would need to survive in the wild.
Moto and Me: My Year as a Wildcat’s Foster Mom is one of my top three favorite books from 2017. Written for second to fifth graders, the narrative of the text is compelling, and at the same time manages to share a lot of information about servals, animal rescue efforts, and conservation work in East Africa.
And that kitten is just so dang cute. I’ve booktalked this title in dozens of fourth and fifth grade classes as part of my library outreach work, and the photos never fail to elicit a crooning “awwwwwwhhh” from the kids.
Suzi Eszterhas is author/photographer of several other children’s books about wildlife and animal rescue efforts, including Orangutan Orphanage, Koala Hospital, and Baby Animals Playing.
Anna Monders is the booktalk specialist for Jackson County Library Services. She visits 200 elementary and middle schools classes a year, getting kids excited about reading.