By SAL PIZARRO – The Mercury News
Former first daughter advocates for endangered animals with “Don’t Let Them Disappear”
Chelsea Clinton swooped into San Jose on Wednesday on a mission to create a league of kid-sized conservation superheroes. The medium of the former first daughter’s message was “Don’t Let Them Disappear,” her new children’s book about endangered animals that she discussed with more than 300 students at Los Alamitos Elementary School.
The picture book lets young readers meet a dozen endangered species — including rhinoceroses, polar bears, tigers, giant pandas and giraffes — whose numbers have dwindled because of poaching, climate change and destruction of their habitat.
“I have always cared about endangered species, and I was so grateful that I kept hearing from kids your age and a little older and younger how much they cared about endangered species, too,” Clinton said during a 30-minute session with the first- through third-graders. “The idea came from wanting to have a book that could help to inform and empower young readers and also a book that I wish I had when I was your age.”
She and Gianna Marino, the book’s illustrator, appeared together at a later event with a mixed crowd of about 400 students and adults at the San Jose Woman’s Club. Both appearances were arranged by Hicklebee’s, the children’s book store in Willow Glen.
If any kids in the audience had been well versed in politics, they would have found some irony when Clinton — the daughter for two Democratic Party stalwarts, former President Bill Clinton and former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who ran twice for president — told them that her favorite animal is the elephant.
“I have loved elephants my whole life,” she told the Los Alamitos students. “I love elephants because they have emotions similar to (the way) we do. They feel love, they feel friendship, they feel compassion, and grief.”
It was stories about elephant poaching in the late 1980s that got her interested in conservation to begin with. “I was a little girl in Arkansas who wanted to do whatever she could to save elephants,” she said.
Clinton said students can do many things to help the endangered animals they are passionate about. They can talk to their families about not buying ivory or believing myths about the medicinal qualities of rhino horns or tiger bones, she said, or they can write to elected officials about changing laws to protect endangered animals.
”Think about what animal you love most and target your energy there,” she said.
One endangered animal that leaves her optimistic, however, is the Blue Whale, which Is also featured in the book.
“They were almost hunted to extinction before I was born, and then the world decided that isn’t what we wanted to have happen,” she said. “I end with Blue Whales because we know that even though we are losing ground with other animals, they can be saved.”
Clinton, 39, has written four previous books for children since 2015, including “She Persisted: 13 American Women Who Changed the World” and “Start Now! You Can Make a Difference.”
“I started writing picture books when I became a parent,” said Clinton, who has a son and daughter and said she is expecting a third child. “I just thought about the books I wanted to share with my kids and when I couldn’t find them I decided to write them.”