Roland Smith


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Jaguar Summary

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Jaguar (1997) is a young adult adventure novel by Roland Smith. The second book in the Jacob Lansa trilogy, Jaguar follows a young boy on an adventure to a jaguar preserve, where he and his father end up in great danger. It’s a popular book and won the 1999 Sunshine State Young Readers Award for Grades 6-8. After working as a zookeeper for twenty years, Smith is now a full-time fiction writer. He contributed to saving the wildlife affected by the 1990 Exxon Valdez oil spill. Smith’s experiences with animals and their welfare influence his writing.

The protagonist is a young boy called Jacob Lansa, or “Jake.” He’s fourteen and lives in Poughkeepsie, New York. His father, Dr. Lansa, is a zoologist working on a jaguar preserve in Brazil. While he’s away, Jake is stuck living in a retirement home with his guardian, Peter, and he’s bored being around older people. He misses his dad, and he’s jealous that he can’t see his dad’s jaguar preserve. He’s also upset because he never hears from his dad while he’s away, and he feels neglected.

One day, Jake gets a call from Dr. Lansa. He’s taking longer in Brazil than anyone expected, and he wants Jake to come out and join him onsite. Jake is thrilled that he’ll be spending spring break somewhere as cool as this. He also can’t wait to spend time with his dad. However, when he gets to Brazil, someone else meets him at the airport. Bill, a fellow scientist, is one of Dr. Lansa’s best friends. Bill drives Jake to the preserve because his dad is too busy. Jake is angry that his dad isn’t more excited to see him.

Jake doesn’t see much of his dad for the first couple of days he’s in Brazil. He’s too busy working on the preserve. To stay busy, Jake helps Bill with a boat he’s working on. However, the boat explodes, and Bill dies. Jake is distressed, but he knows they must all keep going. Dr. Lansa finds another vehicle to take them along the Amazon—a very small, but limber, boat.

Dr. Lansa says that Jake can learn how to steer the boat because he needs to go to Brasilia to get the licensing permit amended from the old boat to the new one. Jake studies the boat and learns how to fly a small plane while Dr. Lansa’s away. However, before long, Jake ends up in trouble again. While he’s on the boat, a man he has never seen before attacks him, knocking him out cold. Jake doesn’t understand what’s happened or why, but when he wakes up, he decides not to tell the others.

Once Dr. Lansa returns, they set sail along the Amazon. They haven’t traveled far when the boat breaks down, stranding them near a small village. They must venture into the town to find someone who can fix the boat, or who can give them materials to try and fix it themselves. This is a very rundown, dilapidated town, and the townspeople don’t like strangers. When Jake starts looking around the town, he notices someone he recognizes—the man who knocked him out.

Jake doesn’t get a chance to warn anyone, because Dr. Lansa is busy with another problem. There’s a jaguar terrorizing the town at night. He must convince the residents not to shoot the animal and to let him take it away for the reserve. It takes a lot of time, but he finally convinces the residents to let him catch the jaguar. Dr. Lansa, Jake, and others stake out the village at night; they catch the jaguar.

They tranquilize it and weigh it to see what condition it’s in. Once they’re satisfied, they move off, taking the jaguar back to the boat. Locals help Dr. Lansa fix the boat in exchange for ending the jaguar threat to their village. Setting off again down the Amazon, they reach a perfect site to camp for a while and to study the plants and wildlife. Jake helps his dad and his fellow scientists tag animals and collect data.

Once the animals are tagged, Jake takes the small plane out, following the tracked herds. He feels useful and cool; he can’t wait to tell his friends all about it. However, his happiness is short-lived, as Dr. Lansa contracts malaria and is gravely ill. To make matters worse, the anonymous attacker tracks them down. His name is Tyler; he wants to be rid of the camp. He plans on taking them hostage and killing them.

Jake, meanwhile, works with the scientists to outsmart Tyler. They trap him by luring him into the jungle, where they surround him. Although Tyler tries to shoot them, one of the scientists kills Tyler first. They all rush back to camp to check on Dr. Lansa and make plans to escape. They contact the man funding the preserve to let him know what’s happened; he’s delighted with their work and that they’re all okay.

Soon, Jake is on a plane back to New York, leaving his dad behind to put the finishing touches on the preserve. He can’t wait to have a well-deserved rest before going back to school.