________________ CM . . . . Volume XXIII Number 32. . . April 28, 2017


Moto and Me: My Year as a Wildcat’s Foster Mom.

Suzi Eszterhas.
Toronto, ON: Owlkids Books, 2017.
38 pp., hardcover, $18.95.
ISBN 978-1-77147-242-5.

Subject Headings:
Serval-Conservation-Kenya-Juvenile literature.
Wildlife rescue-Kenya-Juvenile literature.
Wildlife rehabilitation-Kenya-Juvenile literature.
Foster care of animals- Kenya-Juvenile literature.
Eszterhas, Suzi-Travel-Kenya-Juvenile literature.

Grades 2-4 / Ages 7-9.

Review by Gillian Richardson.

**** /4



The rangers knew I had spent a lot of time studying and photographing cats, including servals, so they asked if I wanted to be Moto’s foster mother. It would be different from raising him as a pet. I would have to teach Moto how to survive in the wild on his own, so he wouldn’t have to rely on a human forever. When he was old enough and ready, I would return him to the wild, where he belonged.

Moto was saddened by the loss of his mother, and for the first week, he cried out often. The most important thing for an orphaned baby animal is to feel secure, so I stayed right by his side and showered him with affection. As he got more comfortable with me, Moto became very snuggly and purred loudly when I held him. Purring meant he was happy, so I was happy too.

Wild servals are usually born into litters of two or three kittens, so I decided Moto needed a foster sibling. I gave him a plush toy named Mr. Ducky. When I couldn’t be with him, Mr. Ducky kept him company. Moto loved his new “brother” and spent hours snuggling with him.


This appealing wildlife story is told with authentic detail by a talented author/photographer with expert credentials. Given her passion for conservation, the circumstances of this tale provided Suzi Eszterhas with the perfect topic for a nonfiction book to communicate her message to a young audience. She plans to donate royalties to support the Mara Conservancy, the Kenyan setting for the story of an orphaned serval (spotted wildcat) called Moto.

     The book opens with brief background about the work that took the author to Kenya. The details of her camp home—the shower was a bag of warm water hung from a tree branch—and close encounters with wildlife immediately grip the reader’s attention, and the facts of Moto’s accidental abandonment after a grass fire are equally captivating. The author uses each aspect of Moto’s upbringing to introduce general information about serval wildcats —his need for security, suitable food, grooming, the companionship of litter mates, learning hunting skills and defense methods, and finally gaining independence in his natural habitat. A page of facts, “All About Servals”, extends the learning with further notes.

     The writing style is both simple and engaging, with dramatic episodes easily holding the reader’s attention throughout. For instance, empathy for the little cat is aroused with specific detail about how he was separated from his wild family by an over-zealous group of tourists, a near-crisis when he gulped his milk and almost choked, and his instinctive reaction to a first taste of mouse prey—“...he knew exactly what to do. He grabbed it from my hand and hissed at me….took the mouse right back to his nest—which was my bed!”.

     Being a wildlife photographer located in a Kenyan bush camp naturally gave Eszterhas the advantage of a wealth of opportunities to collect the shots she’d need for this book. Consequently, the reader is treated to the best and most appealing close-ups of Moto at each stage of his development. Who can resist these baby animal shots: Moto with his stuffed ducky, his bottle, his grooming toothbrush, and even with his first mouse.

     Children who love animals will find this “diary” of a lesser known wildcat especially memorable. This style of presentation is a terrific way for them to understand the value of saving even one small orphaned member of a species, of keeping wildlife wild, and of conservation efforts to save habitat.

Highly Recommended.

Gillian Richardson is a freelance writer living in BC.

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

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
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The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
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