I am over the moon excited to welcome Deb Aronson today. Deb’s new book, How to Raise a Rhino releases this month.
Anna Merz is My Kind of Hero
I have to tell you, how impressed I was to learn about Anna Merz. She is a strong, adventurous woman who fought to save a nearly extinct species, and you can learn all about her Deb Aronson’s new book, How to Raise a Rhino.
A Little About How to Raise a Rhino
How to Raise a Rhino is a nonfiction book that tells how Anna Merz retired to Kenya and found her true calling— Kifaru Mama (Rhino Mama).
After Anna witnessed the slaughter of black rhinos for their parts, she became determined to rescue the highly endangered black rhino. Black rhinos can be thought of as the dodo of the modern world — ungainly creatures destined for extinction. They may not have the beauty of a cheetah, the majesty of an elephant or the smarts of a dolphin, but they needed saving. Anna, small, older white woman stepped up.
She fostered (and fell in love with) an abandoned rhino, established a sanctuary for these wonderful creatures, and brought international attention to this species in peril!
Let’s Get to Know Deb
What take home message do you hope readers find in your book?
I hope young readers understand Anna’s story as a window into the vast range of options they have in their lives. When I was a tween, I had no idea what grown ups did. I write biographies like this to give tweens an idea of things they might do. I purposefully don’t write about famous people because, at least in my mind, there’s no way I could do something a famous person does or has done.
What is your favorite part of the book?
I love the parts where Anna slowly learns, mostly through her relationship with Samia, the rhino she raises, that rhinos are far more nuanced and intelligent than she was led to believe.
If you could save an endangered species which species would you chose?
I’d love to go back in time to save the dodo! But really, I think one message of Anna’s work is, if you work to save one species from extinction, you end up helping many others. At the sanctuary, Anna focused on black rhinos. The sanctuary also protected rare Grevy’s zebras, the endangered white rhino and several other threatened species.
What is the most exotic place you’ve travelled?
Well…I’m not sure the most exotic but in my younger days I was an archaeologist and for that work I traveled and worked in northern Syria with Kurdish workers. Our lingua franca was rudimentary Arabic – none of us spoke it well. I also traveled to Peru. My grandmother took me with her on a birding trip to Guatemala and Belize when I was in 7th grade. The average age of the group was 60!
Do you have another nonfiction project in the works?
I do! I’m working on a biography of Pauli Murray, whose work as a lawyer, civil rights activist, poet and early transgender activist resonates deeply with me. Like my own late mother (Margaret Aronson), Dr. Murray illustrates that, when you see something that is unjust, if you can do something to right that wrong, do it. Like Dr. Murray, my mother worked side by side with civil rights activist and fair housing champion, Morris Milgram, so that’s an interesting overlap!
Eager to Read More?
This whole conversation has me eager to learn more about endangered animals. After you’ve checked out How to Raise a Rhino, consider:
Will We Miss them?: Endangered Species (Nature’s Treasures) by Alexandra Wright and Marshall H. Peck. This is an introduction to the fascinating lives of endangered species.
Can You Save an Endangered Species? (You Choose Books) (You Choose: Eco Expeditions) by Eric Braun. With dozens of story outcomes, it’s up to the reader to save the animals from extinction—but they have to choose to help.
National Geographic The Photo Ark of Vanishing; The World’s Most Vulnerable Animals by Joel Sartore.
A veterinarian and an author, K.D. is passionate about animals and story-telling. As far as story is concerned, she particularly loves stories that include ghosts, vampires, and anything that goes bump in the night. When not pounding out stories, she spends her time with her usually wonderful children, mostly well-behaved dogs, and her absolutely devious cats. She’s grateful for a very tolerant husband.
From the Mixed-Up Files is the group blog of middle-grade authors celebrating books for middle-grade readers. For anyone with a passion for children’s literature—teachers, librarians, parents, kids, writers, industry professionals— we offer regularly updated book lists organized by unique categories, author interviews, market news, and a behind-the-scenes look at the making of a children's book from writing to publishing to promoting.
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