'There is no greater love than the love of a mother," sings the popular entertainer Zehava Ben in a song that has even the tough guys in the audience feeling sentimental. "Ki ein ahava ba'olam, kmo ahava shel imma" is also the premise behind this children's book: My Mommy is the Best in the World: The Safari Young Speak Out.
We all know from an early age (the earliest age, in fact) that there is nothing warmer than a mother's touch or the kiss that can make all hurts and pains go away. Sagit Horowitz, who is better known as the spokeswoman of the Ramat Gan Safari with regular radio and television appearances about the life of the residents there, wants to show that this love exists in the animal world, too. Her stated aim is to show young readers that a mother's love is unending and unconditional.
Horowitz, who has often written for youth papers and children's magazines, gets her message across with a cute story set in the safari (where her husband, Yigal Horowitz is a veterinarian, incidentally).
The story line is not particularly original - the young animals get together and talk about their mothers, each convinced that his or her mommy is the best. A refrain repeated from animal to animal is: "Because my mommy more than a-n-y-o-n-e else loves me the most."
The standard favorites are included - elephants, hippos and gorillas, for example - along with the far less common Patagonian cavy ("mara" in both Hebrew and English), which had me heading for a dictionary and Google.
As the young animals speak, we are introduced to the characteristics and traits of species: the lemur who uses her tongue to clean and comb the fur of her offspring; the lioness who tells her cub "there's no choice but to learn to hunt" and, in the leonine version of "when you're older, you'll understand," offers him encouragement when he wants to give up: "It will be different when your mane begins to grow."
The information is correct, as you would expect from a safari spokesperson. However, I found the text slightly simplistic. We all know, even the youngest kids, that elephants are big; why not say how long the elephant mother carries the baby in her womb? That kangaroos have pockets is true enough, but why not let the young readers know that they are found in Australia?
The language, too, while simple, does not always scan, which affects the way the adult reads it (particularly if you are a non-native Hebrew speaker reading to a sabra child).
Although this book is clearly a labor of love for Horowitz, who is dedicated to educating children about the animal world, it is not the text that stands out but the accompanying photographs. The stunning images will attract both young and old humans. The six-year-old whom I love most in the world - who wants to be a zoologist filmmaker when he grows up - pronounced the pictures "amazing" and insisted I read the jacket information about the photographer. Tibor Jager, we learned, is a graduate of the New York Institute of Photography who has won national and international awards for his work and above all enjoys combining his passions for wildlife and photography.
My man-cub returned to the book several times just to look at the pictures, and I was happy to share the experience with him.
In a nice touch, there is room on the back page to stick a photo of the child and mom.
The Ramat Gan Safari has promised one-time free entrance to the first purchasers of the book. This shouldn't be the reason to buy it. It would make a nice gift for any young child who needs a reward, cheering up or encouragement (and who doesn't, now and again?) and certainly is an attractive addition to the collections of animal books available