The Lion Queens of India
By Kirkus Reviews
The photography-driven book tells the story of an all-women animal rescue team working in India’s Gir National Park, the world’s last known habitat for Asiatic lions. The book is narrated by Rashila, who declares, “I love lions,” and who became the first woman forest guard at Gir in her early 20s, earning the moniker “Lion Queen.” Subsequently, several other women have been hired as guards, hence the title’s plural. From fighting poachers to confronting lions, and despite the dangers these women face on a daily basis, they show an unwavering commitment to preserving the wildlife, no matter what it takes. Reynolds’ photography (supplemented by others’ contributions) is based on fieldwork in Gir in January 2018 as well as interviews and ongoing conversations with sanctuary leadership and workers. The result is a refreshing take on the exotic-animal photo essay, one that centers people of the community rather than white, foreign scientists. Indeed, the only white person in the book can be found in a small photo of the author riding pillion on a motorbike with Rashila. In her author’s note, Reynolds describes initially meeting Rashila and then shadowing her through the park. The note also reiterates the text’s strong environmental messaging. In addition to profiling these remarkable women, the text is full of lion facts and vocabulary, which make it a solid nonfiction book about animals. Young readers will be inspired by these women who show an unwavering commitment to preserving the wildlife, no matter what it takes.