Audie Cornish: A baby hippo named Owen rescued after the Indonesian tsunami hit the coast of Africa befriends a 130-year-old tortoise named Mzee.
A dolphin trapped in a crab trap loses her tail. The bottlenose（宽吻海豚） named Winter learned how to swim again with the help of a newly-designed silicon tail.
And when a snow leopard named Leo is just 7 weeks old, he is orphaned in the Himalayas. The story of his journey and those of all these other animals are chronicled by writer Craig Hatkoff and his 12-year-old daughter Isabella This father-daughter team tackles animal rescue stories and pictures and essays in a series of children’s books. And they are in our New York studios.
Audie Cornish: Craig, Isabella, welcome to the show.
Isbella: Thank you!
Craig: Audie, thanks to having us on the show. We’re very excited to be here.
Audie Cornish: So tell us the story of how you guys got into writing books together.
Isabella: Well, in early 2005, when the tsunami disaster hit Africa, there was a picture in the New York Times of a baby hippo snuggled up with a giant tortoise. And I asked my dad to read me that article ‘cause at that time I couldn’t read. And then we decided it would be a great children’s book.
Audie Cornish: Tell us about the story.
Isabella: In the tsunami, Owen had got separated from his pod of hippos. And he got washed up into a coral. So a bunch of people tried to rescue him, then they moved him to Haller Park which is a wildlife preserve in Kenya. And then he saw Mzee and he started following with Mzee around.
Craig: Mzee wanted nothing to do with Owen to begin with, but that’s the resilience part. He wouldn’t give up.
Audie Cornish: So they tell the stories of animal rescues, but they also tell, I guess, bigger stories about bigger issues like loss or dealing with the disability? Tell us a little bit about that aspect.
Craig: Well, I think we are looking for stories that have teachable moments. They are very, very uplifting, so it starts with a trauma or a tragedy and we actually have a, you know, protagonist story or a hero or heroin and I think kids relate to that. So we are always looking for people who can overcome obstacles. So I think that’s just one of the basic fundamental tenets of what means to be human.
But they are stories of resilience and hope through the eyes of young animals and what we found is that kids in dealing with difficult subjects. It creates a “point of entry” that’s much easier to start the discussion.
Audie Cornish: Isabella, kind of putting the goose bump test to you. Which one of the books you’ve written, which story or animal are you most fond of or did you feel a kind of special connection with?
Isabella: Probably Winter. With Winter, she is really…
Audie Cornish: And Winter is the dolphin that had the prosthetic tail.
Craig: Winter will actually end up with probably close to 30 different prosthetic tails. And they are constantly improving the prosthetic tail, so while there is a silicone, the secret of the success is they created a silicon like a sock, like a giant sock that’s about 2 feet long but can stretch out to almost, probably 10 feet. And you slipped that over and that kept the tail on Winter when we get, you know, I’ve had the opportunity to do a lot of presentations in public schools, in classes. And everybody always gets such a huge kick. Invariably someone in the audience will have a prosthetic leg or arm, something. So it’s very poignant.
Audie Cornish: So the newest book is 《Leo the Snow Leopard》 and tell us a little bit more about his story.
Craig: Leo was orphaned in the Himalaya Mountains and discovered by a goat herder who rescued him. Leo quickly started growing and it was, he became too big to live with Kamal who is the goat herder and it began a process of amazing international cooperation of finding an appropriate home.
And one of the most important things, one of the lessons is that the snow leopards are critically endangered, so having Leo brought to the United States at the Bronx zoo, where they do have a breeding program, was very important scientifically.
Audie Cornish: That’s Craig Hatkoff and his 12-year-old daughter Isabella. They are the authors of the new children’s book 《Leo the Snow Leopard》. And they join me from our studios in New York.
Craig, Isabella, thank you!
Isabella: Thank you so much for having us.
Craig: Audie, thank you very much!