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Puma Dreams

Illustrated by Jim LaMarche

About The Book

“A lovely, beautifully illustrated story of a child's dream fulfilled.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Beautifully illustrated with a strong conservation message.” —School Library Journal
“A lyrical panoramic beauty of a book.” —BookPage

From award-winning duo Tony Johnston and Jim LaMarche comes a stunning, lyrical picture book about a girl’s desire to see an elusive California puma in the wild that includes interesting facts about this beautiful and threatened animal.

A girl visiting her grandmother longs for a glimpse of the solitary and rarely seen puma. Her grandmother tells her that if she’s patient, one day her wish will come true. But patience is hard, the girl thinks. So, the girl and her grandmother stand watch each day, and then finally, without warning, she sees the beautiful animal from afar. Knowing she may never see a puma again, she now knows it’s everyone’s responsibility to protect these increasingly threatened animals.

About The Author

Photo courtesy of the author

Tony Johnston is the award-winning author of more than 100 beloved children’s books. She lives with her family in San Marino, California, where she grew up.

About The Illustrator


Jim LaMarche is one of the most talented artists working in children’s books today. His many successful books include Rainbabies by Laura Kraus Melmed and Albert by Donna Jo Napoli, which was selected as a New York Times Best Illustrated Book; and Up and Raft, which he also wrote. Most recently he illustrated The Carpenter’s Gift by David Rubel and Puma Dreams by Tony Johnston. Jim lives in Santa Cruz, California.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books (October 1, 2019)
  • Length: 48 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781534429796
  • Grades: P - 3
  • Ages: 4 - 8
  • Lexile ® AD530L The Lexile reading levels have been certified by the Lexile developer, MetaMetrics®

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Raves and Reviews

A young girl is fascinated by pumas, and after months of waiting and watching, she sees a puma near her home.The unnamed narrator of the lyrically told story lives with her grandmother on a remote ranch in an unspecified location with mountains and canyons. The girl is fascinated with puma lore and legends, and her dream is to see a puma, even just once. She uses her allowance money to purchase a salt lick with hopes of luring a puma close enough for observation. After over a year of watching and dreaming, she finally sees a puma through the window as it circles the salt lick. The first-person story is told with evocative descriptions as the girl observes the environment around her with a dreamy, imaginative style enlivened by Gram's pithy country sayings. An oversized format and expansive double-page-spread format showcase the striking, realistic illustrations done in a glowing, golden palette. The accomplished paintings capture the beauty of the natural surroundings and help create a real world for the rather lonely child. The girl and her grandmother present white. An author's note offers more information about pumas as well as puma-conservation organizations, although exactly where pumas can be found in the U.S. is not made clear enough. The unlikely but real danger posed by pumas to humans is also not addressed.A lovely, beautifully illustrated story of a child's dream fulfilled. (Picture book. 4-8)

– Kirkus Reviews, July 15, 2019

The girl who narrates this wistful idyll by Johnston (Loving Hands) lives with her grandmother amid rolling grassland. She has long dark hair and a starry-eyed expression, and she dreams of seeing a puma one day. (Her Gram calls it a “long-dream, for it may not ever happen.”) The puma population is dwindling, the girl knows: “Some are hunted down./ Some are forced from the land/ when people move in.” She sinks her allowance into a salt lick; it lures other animals, but not the one she wants to see. The wisdom of her grandmother (“Easy dreams aren’t worth a pin or a pickle”) helps sustain her as she gets a lesson in patient waiting. Johnston’s deliberately paced story foregrounds the sense of time that comes from living in the natural world, where things can take years, not minutes. Each softly tinted, naturalistic spread by LaMarche (A Story for Bear) captures a scene of rare beauty: a misty morning, a snowy dawn. While the text treats habitat loss and extinction, it focuses, too, on the simple joy of encountering an animal in the wild, where it is meant to be. Ages 4–8. (Oct.)

– Publishers Weekly, August 19, 2019

Among the hills where she lives with her grandmother, a young girl has always wanted to see a puma, but, as Gram explains, because of their being hunted or displaced by humans, they’re rare. However, having heard stories of sightings, the girl’s hopeful. She even sets out a salt lick—“I imagine that big cat / slipping through our wheat field / on whisper-feet”—which only attracts other wildlife. Still, she remains vigilant through seasons, until, finally, she spies a puma in the grasses around the salt lick. Though fleeting, the experience inspires her in multiple ways. The girl’s eloquent, poetic narrative is reflected in LaMarche's evocative, richly hued, realistic illustrations, softly rendered in acrylics, pencil, and ink, which make equally great work of landscapes, mountain vistas, and close-up portraits of the determined narrator. The lyrical lines and warm scenes combine harmoniously to tell a lovely story that highlights the natural world, while also conveying the resonant power of aspirations. An appended author's note includes puma facts, Johnston's personal puma experiences that inspired the story, and lists some conservation organizations.

– Booklist, September 15, 2019

JOHNSTON, Tony. Puma Dreams. illus. by Jim LaMarche. 48p. S. & S./Paula Wiseman Bks. Oct. 2019. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781534429796.

K-Gr 3– A farm girl dreams of seeing a puma in the wild. Her gram tells her that this is a “long-dream,” since pumas are elusive and their population is dwindling. The girl is determined and makes a plan. She invests her allowance in a salt lick. Months go by; the girl goes about her daily life and waits. Her patience pays off when she finally sees a puma licking her salt lick. The girl thinks he looks like a great golden ghost and she is inspired to pursue a new dream—to preserve and protect wild puma populations. Printed in landscape format, the realistic illustrations of a farmhouse and outdoor vistas are created with a combination of acrylic, pencil, and ink with frame-worthy skill. A soft and natural color palette places readers through the seasons gazing along the long horizon. Gently poetic first-person prose emphasizes the quiet beauty in the every day. An endnote contains information about pumas and a list of organizations dedicated to puma initiatives. VERDICT Budding nature lovers will enjoy this quiet, beautifully illustrated book with a strong conservation message.–Mindy Hiatt, Salt Lake County Library Services

– School Library Journal, October 2019

Puma Dreams

By Tony Johnston, Jim LaMarche

Paula Wiseman


ISBN 9781534429796

Published 10/01/2019

4 to 8

Children's / Children's Picture

Puma Dreams, a lyrical, panoramic beauty of a book, is the collaborative effort of award-winning writer Tony Johnston and renowned illustrator Jim LaMarche.

In this lyrical story, a young girl who lives in the country has a dream of seeing a puma—the elusive “ghost of the mountains.” Her Gram tells her she must be patient and that dreams require waiting, time and more than a little luck.

To try and lure a puma, the girl and her Gram buy a salt lick and place it in the meadow. Every day the girl watches with her binoculars as birds, mice, deer and elk nibble at the salt lick, but no puma appears. The girl grows tired of waiting, but she knows dreams take time.

One morning over breakfast, the girl senses something is about to happen. When she gazes out the window, she finally sees the puma, golden and magical—the dream she has waited for. Now that she has realized her dream, the girl begins to imagine a new dream of keeping pumas safe and making sure they always have places to roam free.

With gentle pastels, LaMarche creates sweeping vistas of mountains and prairies, the perfect puma habitat, and Johnston’s evocative language beautifully portrays a little girl’s longing.

– BookPage - Web Exclusive, October 1, 2019

Awards and Honors

  • Kansas NEA Reading Circle List PrimaryTitle
  • Keystone to Reading Elementary Book Award Reading List (PA)

Resources and Downloads

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More books from this author: Tony Johnston

More books from this illustrator: Jim LaMarche