Saving Sorya: Chang and the Sun Bear

Dial. Sept. 2021. 128p. Tr $23.99. ISBN 9780593353639.
Gr 4-6–Inspired by the author’s own experiences as a conservationist, this triumphant graphic novel charts the relationship between Sorya, a sun bear, and Chang, a young Vietnamese girl who helps rehabilitate her. Beginning and ending with the bear’s release into the wild, the book explores key moments in Sorya’s and Chang’s lives. When Chang is eight, she is horrified when she stumbles across a mistreated moon bear, and vows to become a conservationist. Despite barriers—all the books she finds on conservation are in English, and many people tell her that a young girl can’t be a conservationist—Chang perseveres year after year until she lands a volunteer position at a national park and bear rescue center in Vietnam. The center soon welcomes Sorya, a two-week-old cub. Chang learns everything she can so that she can teach Sorya how to eventually survive on her own. How hard will it be to say goodbye? With a warm yet realistic outlook, Nguyen’s heartfelt tale is perfect for animal-loving fans of Katherine Applegate’s The One and Only Ivan and Rosanne Parry’s A Wolf Called Wander. Zdung’s full-color art fuses traditional Vietnamese art with manga styles. The lush rain forest scenes are rich in detail, supplemented by fact-filled pages of Chang’s field notebook that appear throughout. The mix of varied block paneling with stylish overlays keeps the pacing fresh yet also allows for some still moments of beauty.
VERDICT Stirring and gorgeously rendered, this eco-conscious tale is a superb purchase for all libraries.

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