This book is absolutely a must-have, no-discussion, gimme-gimme purchase for the school library, the public library, or for any animal-loving kid. The story of U.S. and Iraqi military and civilian volunteers rescuing and caring for zoo animals in post-invasion Baghdad, it is full of wondrous moments: peril, as when a convoy transporting animals on an hour-long journey across town encounters sniper fire; tragedy, when a soldier ventures too close to the tiger cage; nobility, bravery, and humor.
Sidebars give information on the animal species, background about the war, and first-person reminiscences by Major William Sumner, the civilian affairs officer assigned the duty of "doing something about" the zoo. An archaeologist by training, Major Sumner had expected to be assigned to the Baghdad Museum. Surprise!
Not only did Sumner and his team find and care for the animals in the Baghdad Zoo, they gathered abandoned exotic animals from all over the large city, from private petting zoos and palace menageries. In a chaotic six-hour fracas, they rescued sixteen of Saddam Hussein's priceless Arabian horses from a racetrack in the most dangerous part of town. They assisted in the birth of six lion cubs even as fighting continued in the city.
This team worked hard, improvised, begged, went undercover, did research, going far beyond the call of duty to feed and care for these creatures. It's a fascinating story, a terrific discussion starter, an inspiration.