Thursday, May 25, 2017

MG Review: The Last Panther by Todd Mitchell

29940524The Last Panther by Todd Mitchell
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Format:  ARC Paperback

Number of Pages: 246
Publishing:  August 22nd, 2017
Source: Publisher
Why I wanted to read this:   Love the cover with Kiri and the panther.  I suspected this would deal with endangered animals and curious about the story.  

Opening lines:  "The netters were pulling something to shore.  Kiri couldn't see what they'd caught from where she stood on the beach with Paulo, but six or seven netters had waded into the surf to haul on the lines, so whatever the nets held, it must have been big." 

Eleven-year-old Kiri lives near the ghost forest along the edge of a swamp with her father.  Nearby are the fugee's, or refugees who either haul in salvage from the ocean to sell to the boat people or are catchers of whatever fish are remaining.  Kiri's father is a waller,  someone who comes from the walled city and works as a conservationist, collecting plant and animal specimens.  Kiri's mother was a fugee prior to her death from an illness that affects only fugee's.  Kiri, however, doesn't seem to fit into either of these two groups, which unsettles her because she really wants to be accepted by her mother's people.  The beginning of the story surrounds a fugee, Charro, claiming salvage rights to an animal he's hauling into shore.  Some of the villagers claim it's a "catch" because the animal is alive, while Charro still refuses to give up his "salvage"  claiming he can sell the creature and make lots of money.   However, the village Witch Woman claims that it is a Devi or spirit that should be left alone.   Kiri tries to help by getting her father to use his books to identify the creature but is too late to save what they determine was a female leatherback turtle.   Kiri's father is devasted by the loss of the turtle, and even though the villagers offer to share the meal they've prepared with him, he can't bring himself to take it causing a greater rift between the villagers and Kiri's father.  Kiri attempts to mend things by sneaking back to the village and trying the soup, but unfortunately, crosses paths with a panther (The Shadow Who Hunts) receiving a mark on her shoulder.  The whole village gets spun up into hunting for the panther, while Kiri's father wants to collect it for his patrons, leaving only Kiri and a village boy left trying to protect it.

 The Last Panther seemed to be part real world Florida with a slightly dystopian quality of what our world could become.  While there are nice descriptions of the surrounding village and plant life giving that feel of Florida, I would've liked to know more about the refugees themselves.   Although, they did appear to come from some "far-off ruined place," it would've been nice to know more about say their beliefs, especially when discussing Devi and ghosts.  However, Kiri's world is an important reminder about preserving the environment so that we don't end up with "were-creatures", or a place where animals have either gone extinct or are severely endangered, animals like the turtle and panther that Kiri only saw or heard about from reading her father's books.  I really did like Kiribati, she's both mesmerized by the leatherback turtle and fiercely protective of the panther, having some sort of connection to them both.   Her desire to be included as one of her mother's people and to stay on the island and protect the panther is admirable.  Kiri receiving a mark from the turtle and panther leads the village witch to call the animals Devi (which I'm guessing pertains to a God) and Kiri their messenger.  Kiribati or Kiri also has these visions of her mother's ghost guiding her, which she partially realizes only seem to occur when she is ill or injured, but ghosts and the villager's beliefs about them take on a special significance in how the story gets resolved.   Gen Tech is the company that Kiri's father works for and they collect animal specimens in the hopes of reintroducing them back into the wild.   Despite their good intentions, Kiri feels they shouldn't be caged up but left to roam free.  The conflict between these two sides illustrates the differing views of hunting animals for survival versus protecting and studying them.  There is this passion for animal conservation in Kiri's quest to save the panther, while also showing how the world's ecosystems are changing and the impact that it has on the animals. How it is important to protect animals and their habitats.  Living in Montana,  I especially enjoyed when Sonia, one of the researchers at Gen Tech was explaining to Kiri the positive changes to the environment that occurred when wolves were reintroduced into Yellowstone.  It's a huge battle here about whether or not ranchers should be allowed to hunt them, so it was interesting to me to read about how wolves destruction can have a ripple effect on everything around it.  Overall, a delightful main heroine and relevant topic. 

There's also a nice teacher's kit available at Todd Mitchel's website.  

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like an interesting read. I will have to look for it when it comes out. Great cover!

    I recently watched a video about the effect that wolves reintroduction into Yellowstone had on the ecosystem. Absolutely amazing!