HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: Diary of My Days in Kenya: A Naturalist’s Observations of a Lioness and Her Adopted Baby Oryx
Author: Rachel Yurchisin
Illustrator: Fred Fulcher
Publisher: Halo Publishing International, 2011
Related website: www.halopublishing.com (publisher)
Language level: 1
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Reading level: Ages 9-12
Rating: 5 stars (EXCELLENT)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Yurchisin, Rachel. Diary of My Days in Kenya: A Naturalist’s Observations of a Lioness and Her Adopted Baby Oryx (published in 2011 by Halo Publishing International). Do you know what an oryx is? It is 2006 and conservationist Susan Polling is on assignment with the National Geographic Society at the Kilimanjaro Reserve in Kenya during a drought. Her co-workers are Kyle the photographer, Andre the meteorologist, and Phil the naturalist, who are studying the effects of the drought on animal life. They encounter elephants, baboons, and hyenas, but Susan is there to investigate the report of a nomadic lioness who has been adopting baby oryx, a species of antelope, over the past several years. The lioness, Maralal left her pride when her male Simba was run off by a new male named Kula.
As Maralal stalks a group of oryx at the last waterhole left in the country, a mother oryx named Uhuru has given birth to a baby Asante. It may be that Uhuru is a first-time mother, and she doesn’t know what to do with this new being that she’s supposed to take care of. She leaves Asante by a bush and doesn’t return for more than twelve hours. Susan assumes that Uhuru has abandoned Asante and finds that Maralel adopts it. Baby oryx and lion cubs both have tawny-colored fur. However, later in the month Asante does not look well because he has had no oryx milk since Maralel found him. Then Susan sees Maralel walking away with Asante and follows them to an oryx herd. One of the oryx is Uhuru. What will Asante do now? Can the young oryx even survive? And will it ever rain?
Author Rachel Yurchisin, a high school student in Cleveland, OH, who feeds her interest in animals and the natural world by participating in educational programs at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo and Museum of Natural History, has created a fictional background and setting for this tale that is loosely based upon the real life occurrences of a nomadic lioness named Kamuniak which nurtures baby oryx as if they were her own young in the Samburu Game Reserve of Kenya. In answer to the question, “What inspired you to write?” Rachel says, “As a project in the fifth grade in school, I had to write a book. I created the story of Maralal and Asante from a newspaper article I read at the time.” She hopes to pass on her passion to other young “budding” naturalists, and young readers will find a great deal of African natural history. The full-page, full-color illustrations which accompany the story are done by Fred Fulcher, the author’s grandfather. It is an exceptional effort by a first-time writer, especially one who is a teenager,