________________ CM . . . . Volume XI Number 1 . . . . September 3, 2004


Secret of the Snow Leopard.

Tenzing Norbu Lama with Stéphane Frattini.
Toronto, ON: Groundwood, 2004.
40 pp., cloth, $16.95.
ISBN 0-88899-544-X.

Subject Heading:
Snow leopard-Juvenile fiction.

Kindergarten-grade 3 / Ages 5-8.

Review by Helen Norrie.

** /4


To his astonishment he found himself at the entrance to a huge cave. All around him the walls were inscribed with holy inscriptions, the letters worn and faded.

A hermit must have lived here, Tsering thought. Perhaps one of the first inhabitants of Dolpo! Some of these wise men could fly across the sky like vultures.

Down below, the cat had started to move. The leopard's muscles rolled under its thick coat, and its long tail flicked back and forth like a whip.

Tenzing Norbu Lama's second book set high in the Himalayas has the same strange setting and unusual attraction as his first, Himalaya. Tzering, son of a great mountain guide, is on a trek across a treacherous pass in the mountains to take a sick man to the monastery. He decides to try to take a shortcut across a dangerous area where he discovers not only a hidden cave but also a dangerous snow leopard which guards the cave. Tzering finds strength in the secret writings in the cave and defeats the leopard by frightening it away by throwing rocks. He believes that this is where his father met his death, and his defeat of the leopard becomes his initiation to manhood. When Tzering returns to his village, Spring has arrived and his mother greets him with a new baby sister.

     Lama's picture are once again striking, done in colours of brown, grey and blue, like the mountain shadows. The artist grew up in Nepal and, from the age of eight, lived in a monastery where he learned to draw and paint. He now lives in Kathmandu.

     Text of this book was originally published in French by Stephane Frattini, from the original screenplay by Eric Valli and Olivier Danzat.

     I think that some of the words in this book would be difficult for very young children. However, they could understand the menace of the leopard and Tzering's triumph in overcoming both his fear and the danger of the animal. Perhaps the chief value of this book is its glimpse into a very different culture, one that is close to nature, and close to elemental things such as birth and death.

Recommended with Reservations.

Helen Norrie is a Children's Literature specialist who writes a monthly column on children's literature for the Winnipeg Free Press.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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