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The Leopard Boy

The Leopard Boy

by Julia Johnson, Marisa Lewis (Illustrator)

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Khalid spends his days looking after his uncle's goats. One day he follows the goats higher up the mountain than he has ever been before, only to discover that one of the kids is missing. But he does stumble upon the home of an old man who tells him about the danger faced by the last of the leopards. When Khalid gets home, his uncle angrily sets a trap for the


Khalid spends his days looking after his uncle's goats. One day he follows the goats higher up the mountain than he has ever been before, only to discover that one of the kids is missing. But he does stumble upon the home of an old man who tells him about the danger faced by the last of the leopards. When Khalid gets home, his uncle angrily sets a trap for the creature he is sure has killed the lost goat. In the following days, Khalid and the old man discover signs of a leopard and determine to save it from Khalid's uncle. Then Khalid learns that his uncle plans to allow a mining company to destroy the mountain and the last thing he needs is to be foiled by the presence of an endangered and protected animal. This beautiful, timeless and inspiring story set in the Arabian peninsula highlights the dilemmas facing traditional peoples in seeking to improve their lives, and will captivate animal lovers concerned about plight of the Arabian leopard.

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From the Publisher

"A beautiful story, a wise and wonderfully told tale of conservation in action; landscape, animals and ourselves, all of us woven together, all of us dependent on one another for our survival. A book of hope."
Kirkus Reviews
When goatherd Khalid loses a kid high in Oman's mountains, he discovers the hidden home of an old man who introduces him to animals who lived there long ago and helps him find surviving leopards, spoiling the boy's uncle's plans to sell the land. This gentle, environmentally hopeful tale pleases on many levels. To begin with, it's a good story, deftly told. Johnson brings readers right in as Khalid spends a scary night alone on the dark mountain. Details of the landscape and of daily life in this unfamiliar Arabian world are woven smoothly into the third-person narration, while the suspense rises as the boy realizes that there might be leopards on the mountain and begins to defy his uncle. During a long wait at a hidden water hole, Khalid puts two and two together about his uncle's activities, but the violent climax happens offstage. In a satisfying resolution, the rest of the villagers also get to see the beautiful animals. While this is a story about endangered species and the importance of the protection of a whole ecosystem, the lesson is implicit rather than explicit, appropriately simplified for young readers. The author has lived in and written about the Persian Gulf region for many years; her knowledge and love for that area shows. Unique and refreshing; a book about the Arab world that isn't about war or oil. (Fiction. 8-12)

Product Details

Frances Lincoln Children's Books
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
4.90(w) x 7.60(h) x 1.20(d)
Age Range:
7 - 10 Years

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Read an Excerpt

Suddenly his thoughts were interrupted. He felt the old man tense beside him. Without moving his head, Khalid glanced at him. The old man's gaze was focused somewhere high on the mountainside beyond the pool. Khalid searched the rugged rock face, but could see nothing. He looked again, more carefully this time, more slowly, making his eyes explore every crevice. What could the old man see that he couldn't?
And then he saw it. Something moved! At first he couldn't make out what it was, it was too far away, perched on a rock high above them. It moved again, and he saw the silhouette, black against the pale pink of the early evening sky. He saw the slender neck, the long thin legs, the wide ears and delicate horns. It was a gazelle! But, beautiful though it was, Khalid felt disappointed.
Then something else moved. Startled, the small gazelle leapt forward and behind it… behind it… Could it be…?
Khalid caught his breath. Hurtling down the side of the mountain in pursuit of the gazelle, twisting and turning from left to right, was the most magnificent animal the boy had ever seen. With its pale beige colouring and black spots it blended in amongst the rocks, and it moved faster than the wind, or so it seemed.
The gazelle was quick too, and it was running for its life. One moment's hesitation, and the leopard would pounce. Captivated, Khalid watched the chase. The animals plunged headlong down the steep face of the mountain. At any moment, surely one or other would lose its footing and tumble to its death in the gorge below. With never a pause the gazelle leapt from rock to rock, the leopard bounding after it.
Khalid watched as the gazelle scaled a huge boulder, and as suddenly as it had appeared, it disappeared, the leopard close behind it.
Khalid didn't expect to see them again, and was about to stand up when the old man put his finger to his lips. Again they waited. Khalid had forgotten all about his numb feet now. He was tingling all over with excitement!
Before long the leopard reappeared. The chase was over. It had the gazelle in its jaw and was dragging it in their direction. When it reached the pool, it climbed on to the highest rock and let go of its prize.
The leopard looked around. It was smaller than Khalid had imagined, but it had huge paws. Leaving its kill on the rock, it came down to the pool to drink, and Khalid saw that the creature's back was a beautiful, deep golden yellow spotted with black rosettes.
The leopard raised its head, and Khalid was afraid that it had sensed their presence. However, it didn't look in their direction but back the way it had come. Khalid almost cried out in surprise, for there, coming down the mountainside, was a cub! He watched as its mother sprang over the rocks, and when she reached her cub she led the way back down towards the pool, the cub following in her footsteps. The boy could see the white tips of its ears as they twitched back and forth. When the going became too difficult, the mother picked the cub up in her jaw and carried it.
They reached the kill. The old man and the boy watched as they tore meat from the carcass, the mother constantly on the look-out for danger. She helped her cub down to the water's edge and it lapped at the water with its little pink tongue.

Meet the Author

Julia Johnson trained as a drama teacher in the U.K., then moved to Dubai with her architect husband. She soon became a familiar face reading children's stories on Dubai television. She is keen to encourage awareness of the Arabian Peninsula's rich cultural heritage through her writing. She has toured schools and universities in the Emirates, Oman, Bahrain, and Kuwait with talks and workshops for students and teachers. Most of her books have been published by Stacey International, including One Humpy Grumpy Camel (2003), The Pearl Diver (2003), The Cheetah's Tale (2005), Saluki, Hound of the Bedouin (2005) and The Peacock and the Mermaid (2007). She now divides her time between Dubai and an old watermill in Worcestershire. Naomi Lewis (1911-2009) was a leading authority on the writing of Hans Christian Andersen. A distinguished children's writer, poet, and much-respected reviewer of children's books, she died in 2009.

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