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Saving the Baghdad Zoo: A True Story of Hope and Heroes by Kelly Milner Halls and Major William Sumner

Saving the Baghdad Zoo

When the war in Iraq started, there were more than 600 animals being kept in public zoos and on private premises in and near Baghdad. Lions and tigers and bears…oh, no; were they safe?  Were they being cared for? Were they hurt and in need of medical attention? Were they scared and hungry?  Saving the Baghdad Zoo, by Kelly Milner Halls and Major William Sumner, is a wonderful story of the animals and those people who stepped up to the challenge of caring for them.

This is such a great book!  It was written from the perspective of Major Sumner. The major--then a U.S. Army captain--was working as an archaeologist in Iraq to help inventory valuable artifacts. He was also put in charge of seeing that the abandoned zoo animals were cared for. Although this was not his field of expertise, he loved animals and wanted to help them. In his story, he shares little tales of the various animals and the heartbreaking conditions in which he found them.  During the bombings, many had died because they were left locked in their cages with no food or water, while their keepers tried to escape, leaving the animals behind. 

One truly heartwarming tale concerns two lions and “the lion dog of Baghdad.” While going through one of Uday Hussein’s palaces, soldiers found two lions and a dog caged together; all three were starving. What was so amazing was that the lions did not turn on the dog! The soldiers later discovered that the three had been raised together since birth and they saw each other as siblings. The lions would not attack their lifelong playmate. There are several other tales like this one that are shared as well as stories about the soldiers, vets, and the Iraqi people who joined together in the common goal of saving these animals.

This is a well-written story that tweens will want to pore over with friends and family. I highly recommend this to everyone. Even if you aren’t an animal lover, you will love the human-interest stories shared and the photographs included, all of which add to the telling.