“I will be the best conservationist in the world!” — Chang, Saving Sorya: Chang and the Sun Bear, p. 114
|Creator(s)||Trang Nguyen (writer), Jeet Zdung (Illustrator)|
|Environmental Themes and Issues||Animal Abuse, Animal Captivity, Animal Rescue, Animals in Danger, Bear Bile Farming, Conservation, Dam, Deforestation, Educational Nature Facts, Endangered Species, Environmental Activism, Extinction, Flooding, Habitat Destruction, Hunting, Poaching|
|Protagonist’s Identity||Chang: A Vietnamese wildlife conservationist|
|Protagonist’s Level of Environmental Agency||Level 5: High Environmental Agency and Activism|
|Target Audience||Middle Grade|
|Settings||Cat Tien National Park in Vietnam|
Based on true events, Trang Nguyen and Jeet Zdung’s Eisner-nominated graphic novel Saving Sorya: Chang and the Sun Bear depicts a young Vietnamese girl’s development into a wildlife conservationist. As an eight-year-old, Chang accidentally stumbles across a bear bile farm while walking home from school. The sight of a man extracting bile from a helpless bear horrifies her, and she vows to become a wildlife conservationist so she can protect other animals from harm. However, Chang faces many obstacles, including the derision of her family and her small size. She begins training for her dream job by keeping field notes and learning English.
As a teenager, Chang gets accepted as a volunteer at an animal rescue center in Cat Tien National Park. Her passion for conservation grows as she helps rehabilitate animals rescued from bear bile farms and poachers. She develops a special bond with Sorya, a baby sun bear captured in a forest in Laos after her mother was presumably killed by poachers. Chang teaches Sorya how to reacclimate to the wild and eventually sets her free after the bear finds a mate. The comic ends on a triumphant note as Chang declares, “I will be the best conservationist in the world!” (114).
Saving Sorya: Chang and the Sun Bear is a beautiful and informative graphic novel filled with rich illustrations of the Vietnamese rainforest and the many species that inhabit it. Drawings from Chang’s notebook and Chang’s narration provide numerous educational facts about sun bears and wildlife conservation. The comic also provides an in-depth exploration of the many environmental issues affecting sun bears and other endangered creatures in Vietnam.
The graphic novel features an introductory letter to the reader written by Trang Nguyen. The author explains that she became passionate about wildlife conservation after witnessing a moon bear getting its bile extracted, and her experiences inspired the creation of the comic’s protagonist. Likewise, Sorya is based on a real moon bear named Pola, who was rescued in 2008 and released into the wild.