We all know that zoos are a classic source of family fun for all, but they also serve as hubs of animal support, conservation efforts, scientific discoveries and medical breakthroughs. At a zoo, a community of nature-minded people comes together to support and learn about the world’s various species.

The San Diego Zoo is an example of one such community effort. Karen’s Heart: The True Story of a Brave Baby Orangutan (Blue Sneaker Press) written by Georgeanne Irvine is the story of a young orangutan named Karen who was born needing extra care and attention from her keepers at the San Diego Zoo. Since her mother could not care for her, Karen was fed, cleaned, and otherwise cared for by zookeepers until she was strong enough to be reunited with her family.

After one year, that reunion came, but unfortunately, Karen’s re-introduction was not as successful as her keepers had hoped. They noticed that she was not as active or as playful as the other orangutans, indicating fatigue and stress. A team of veterinarians and cardiologists soon discovered that Karen had a hole in her heart, causing a life-threatening heart murmur. To repair the hole and save the young orangutan’s life, a team of more than a dozen doctors, nurses, and veterinarians performed open-heart surgery on her. This was the first time that this procedure had been carried out on an orangutan; fortunately, it was a rousing success.

Though Karen’s recovery was not an easy one, she received love and support from fans and friends around the world. News outlets spread her story far and wide, and get-well cards came pouring in. Everyone wanted to support the brave young orangutan who beat the odds and helped pioneer a medical breakthrough. Eventually, Karen was given the chance to re-enter the San Diego Zoo orangutan habitat. This time, she exhibited more spirit and pep than ever, energetically romping around with her friends and adoptive mother Josephine. Karen’s human friends cheered, relieved and ecstatic that she was finally healthy.

Silver winner of the Annual Independent Book Publishers Association Benjamin Franklin Award, Karen’s Heart has been dubbed “a story of hope and inspiration.” Young and old readers alike will find this book both exciting and heartwarming. By discussing Karen’s life at the zoo in such detail, this book also helps teach children the value of empathizing with animals and engages them at the crossroad between the human world and the natural world. Included in the text are fun facts about orangutans as well as plenty of colorful eye-catching photographs of Karen and her friends. Parents seeking to foster a love of animals will love connecting with their children over Karen’s amazing story.

Karen’s Heart is available now.

About Georgeanne Irvine

Georgeanne “George” Irvine has devoted 40 years of her colorful career to the San Diego Zoo and San Diego Zoo Safari Park, where she is director of corporate publishing. She is the author of two dozen children’s books about animals. Photographing and learning about animals in their native habitats are passions for George. Her worldwide adventures have taken her to many of the wildest places on Earth – from the jungles, mountains and forests of Asia and South America to the savannas of Africa as well as the Outback of Australia.