Saving Sorya: Chang and the Sun Bear

by Trang Nguyen (Author) Jeet Zdung (Illustrator)

Saving Sorya: Chang and the Sun Bear
Reading Level: 4th – 5th Grade

* "Nguyen's heartfelt tale is perfect for animal-loving fans of Katherine Applegate's The One and Only Ivan and Rosanne Parry's A Wolf Called Wander."--School Library Journal, starred review

A middle grade graphic novel adventure based on a true story, in which a young conservationist overcomes the odds to save and return a sun bear to its natural habitat.

When endlessly curious and tenacious Chang discovers a bear bile farm near her home in Vietnam, she decides to do everything she can to save wild animals--by becoming a conservationist! After teaching herself survival skills, documenting each rainforest plant and animal she sees in her field notebook, and disproving the critics who think she isn't old enough or strong enough, Chang is finally accepted as a rescue center volunteer.

But her toughest challenge yet comes when she's tasked with returning Sorya--the sun bear she raised from infancy--back into the wild. Because despite being a different species, Sorya is Chang's best friend. And letting a friend go is never easy . . . even when it's the right thing to do.

With breathtaking art and STEM facts galore, Chang's daring story is for any young reader, animal lover, and intrepid explorer!

School Library Journal

Starred Review

Gr 4-6--Inspired by the author's own experiences as a conservationist, this triumphant graphic novel charts the relationship between Sorya, a sun bear, and Chang, a young Vietnamese girl who helps rehabilitate her. Beginning and ending with the bear's release into the wild, the book explores key moments in Sorya's and Chang's lives. When Chang is eight, she is horrified when she stumbles across a mistreated moon bear, and vows to become a conservationist. Despite barriers--all the books she finds on conservation are in English, and many people tell her that a young girl can't be a conservationist--Chang perseveres year after year until she lands a volunteer position at a national park and bear rescue center in Vietnam. The center soon welcomes Sorya, a two-week-old cub. Chang learns everything she can so that she can teach Sorya how to eventually survive on her own. How hard will it be to say goodbye? With a warm yet realistic outlook, Nguyen's heartfelt tale is perfect for animal-loving fans of Katherine Applegate's The One and Only Ivan and Rosanne Parry's A Wolf Called Wander. Zdung's full-color art fuses traditional Vietnamese art with manga styles. The lush rain forest scenes are rich in detail, supplemented by fact-filled pages of Chang's field notebook that appear throughout. The mix of varied block paneling with stylish overlays keeps the pacing fresh yet also allows for some still moments of beauty. VERDICT Stirring and gorgeously rendered, this eco-conscious tale is a superb purchase for all libraries.--Alec Chunn, Eugene P.L., OR

Copyright 2021 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

A Junior Library Guild selection!

* "Uplifting . . . the epitome of wild and free. . . . Breathtaking visuals and a compelling story."—Kirkus Reviews, starred review

* "Triumphant . . . Stirring and gorgeously rendered."—School Library Journal, starred review

"A perfect pick for animal lovers and young conservationists."—Booklist

Trang Nguyen
Trang Nguyen, born in Vietnam, knew from a young age that she wanted to be a wildlife conservationist and environmental activist. She obtained her PhD in Biodiversity Management from the University of Cambridge and is the founder and CEO of WildAct, a non-profit that helps monitor illegal wildlife trade markets. For her advocacy, Nguyen was awarded the prestigious Future for Nature Award in 2018 and named by the BBC as one of the 100 most inspiring and influential women of 2019. This is her first children's book.

Jeet Zdung is an award-winning illustrator who fuses traditional Vietnamese art with manga, using pencils, watercolors, ink, and other digital means to create works of beauty and innovation. Courageous Chang, Defender of Bears is his first children's book published in the US. He resides in Hanoi, Vietnam.

Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Publication date
September 20, 2021
Little Maverick Reading List
Selection 2022

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