Qalqilya is a formerly prosperous Palestinian town with 50,000 or so residents on the edge of the West Bank; it is also home to a decrepit zoo, the victim of years of deprivation caused by the intifada. Thomas, a British correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor and other publications, engagingly tells how Sami Khader, the only zoo veterinarian in the Palestinian territories, tries to transform the Qalqilya Zoo from one of squalor into something of beauty. His goal is simple-to re-create a world-class zoo; the implementation is not so simple, given the violence, corruption, and politics in the region. Without criticizing individuals or editorializing on local politics, Thomas has written an enlightening and even entertaining account of a man with a dream during difficult times. The writing is sometimes uneven or rough, especially dialog, but this is easily forgiven for the human interest and desire of the reader to find out what happens next. This book should appeal to readers of Lawrence Anthony's Babylon's Ark: The Incredible Wartime Rescue of the Baghdad Zoo and Diane Ackerman's The Zookeeper's Wife: A War Story. Recommended for public libraries.-Edell M. Schaefer, Brookfield P.L., WI Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.
This engaging and deftly told book shines a light on a lesser-known victim of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: Palestine's last zoo, located in battle-ravaged Qalqilya, surrounded by Israel. British journalist Thomas recounts a year and a half in the life of the zoo, following zoo veterinarian Dr. Sami Khader's dogged-often futile-attempts to transform a neglected menagerie into an institution of international caliber. An enormously sympathetic portrait emerges of Khader's travails-his grief over the deaths of beloved animals and his struggles to secure funding from a distracted government. Thomas crafts richly detailed depictions of the zoo, and her animal anecdotes are prefaced with meticulous-often tedious-histories of their origins (the introduction to the lion touches upon Charlemagne, Cicero and the 1893 Chicago World's Fair). Despite the lengthy historical asides, this book is a unique and fascinating account of one man's persistence and his fierce dedication to his animal friends. (Apr.) Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.