Evelyn the Adventurous Entomologist: A True Story of a World-Traveling Bug Hunter by Christine Evans, illustrated by Yasmin Imamura (9781943147663)
Born in 1881, Evelyn Cheesman did not conform to the expectations set for little girls. She loved to go on bug hunts and play outside. As she grew up, she hoped to become a veterinarian but women at the time did not attend college much less become vets. So Evelyn became a canine nurse. Evelyn heard about an opportunity at the London Zoo to run their insect house. She leaped at the opportunity, though no woman had ever done it before. She took their dilapidated and neglected insect house and created an engaging display. She then started traveling the world to gather new species and discovering unknown species along the way. She continued to work into her seventies, still traveling the world and climbing to find the insects she loved.
Evans has written this picture book biography with a frank tone that speaks directly to the societal barriers in place against women at the turn of the century entering the sciences. It is remarkable to watch Evelyn make her own way through those barriers, creating a space for herself to learn and explore. There is a joyous celebratory nature to the book as Evelyn reaches new levels in her careers and crosses boundaries both geographical and societal.
The illustrations are done in watercolor, featuring layered elements that really create the woods and other habitats beautifully on the page. The book then moves into the sterility of Evelyn’s time as a canine nurse with the colors becoming more muted. The vivid colors of the beginning of the book return as Evelyn heads into the field and re-enters nature.
A strong STEM biography for bug lovers. Appropriate for ages 4-7.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Innovation Press.
What Do They Do with All That Poo? By Jane Kurtz, illustrated by Allison Black (9781481479868)
Anyone working with children and books knows that the rather naughty subjects of poop, peeing and farting are some of the most popular. In this book, science is mixed in as well, showing what zoos do with all of the animal poop they have. First the book explains what poo is, then moves into showing different types of animal poop like giraffe, panda, hippo and elephant. The book then goes on to explain that most of the poop heads to landfills after being loaded into trucks. Some poop goes to labs for scientists to examine. Some is made into compost for gardens. And interestingly, sometimes paper is made from elephant poo!
Kurtz explains in a matter-of-fact way the various animals and how they poo and then handle their poop. The hippo splattering its poop around is gross but interesting, something that basically sums up this book. Kurtz doesn’t shy away from the grosser parts, but also keeps her focus on facts and science in the book. The illustrations are bright and friendly, despite all of the poop on the pages. Animals are shown in their zoo habitats and then their poop is also shown with them.
An interesting and scientific look at poos in zoos. Appropriate for ages 3-6.
Reviewed from copy provided by Beach Lane Books.
Hippopotamister by John Patrick Green (InfoSoup)
The zoo where Hippo lives is run down and doesn’t get many visitors at all. His friend Red Panda suggests that Hippo join him in the human world and get a job. The two of them put on hard hats and try their hands at construction. Hippo discovers that he is quite good at building, but he doesn’t build the expected skyscraper. The two then try being hair dressers with similar results, though Hippo does find that he’s quite good at it. They put on chef hats and work in a restaurant kitchen where Hippo creates a pasta masterpiece and Red Panda creates a mess. They go on to try being bankers and dentists and many other jobs until they head back to the zoo on one of their day’s off. Hippo decides to returns to the zoo and discovers that he may just have the exact skills needed to help the zoo return in style.
Green’s dismal zoo with limp animals quickly turns into an active story about different jobs, wild and wonderful ways to screw them up, visual gags, and plenty of laughs. The ending of the book is entirely satisfying, even as readers realize where it is headed. It is a pleasure to watch it play out visually and see Hippo come into his own with his myriad of skills.
The illustrations in this graphic novel are welcoming and fun. Filled with bright colors and plenty of action, they have a wonderful feel to them. Especially effective are the images done in series with Red Panda and then Hippo trying hat after hat and job after job. The entire book is filled with a jolly humor.
Funny and lighthearted, this book also has a cheerful depth to it which is immensely satisfying. Appropriate for ages 6-9.
Reviewed from library copy.
My Dad at the Zoo by Coralie Saudo, illustrated by Kris Di Giacomo (InfoSoup)
This is the sequel to My Dad Is Big and Strong, But… which was a wonderful French import. This second book is equally dynamic and successful, continuing the role reversal between father and child in the first book. Here, the father and son head to the zoo together, because Dad just can’t wait to go there. He has trouble waiting in line without bouncing everywhere. Then he has to go to the bathroom. He has a melt down about not having any ice cream until his son distracts him with a porcupine. Even leaving the zoo is tricky, since Dad is sure to want a toy from the souvenir shop even when his son says no.
This book like the first has a gorgeous sense of humor throughout. The dynamic between father and son is reversed completely and children will get the humor effortlessly as they see their own potential behavior play out in an adult. The humor is never mean and always zany, creating a feeling that will make everyone smile.
Di Giacomo’s illustrations add to that zany humor as the very large father figure dwarfs his son on every page. Even his interactions at the zoo are played for laughs as he poses with his arm around the flamingos. The illustrations use subtle color and a cartoon style to create their own unique feel.
A great read aloud that is just right for any family, particularly after an outing. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from copy received from Enchanted Lion.
Fur, Fins and Feathers: Abraham Dee Bartlett and the Invention of the Modern Zoo by Cassandre Maxwell
As a child, Abraham loved animals. He read all about them, even as he started working as a curator at the Museum of Natural History. As a child he also saw the way that animals were treated, lined up in small cages where they could barely move as people paid to view them. Abraham’s exhibits drew the attention of the members of the London Zoological Society and when they discovered his broad knowledge of animals, they asked him to be the next superintendent of the zoo. Abraham found innovative and kind ways to work with injured animals. He also began labeling exhibits with information about the animals in addition to their names. He figured out that animals need specific diets. Finally, he began to expand the way that the animals were kept, creating larger enclosures filled with trees, where the animals were healthier and people could still view them.
Maxwell has written a captivating biography of Bartlett that focuses on the way that his personal interest in animals led him to revolutionize zoos. Young readers will be dismayed and startled to see the small cages animals were kept in and as the book progresses, they will see the transformation to the modern zoos they know today.
The cut-paper art has an old-fashioned feel that beautifully conveys the 19th century time period. Maxwell incorporates small details of fashion and decor that firmly keep the setting in the past. There are clever touches of other papers with special textures or patterns that make the illustrations worth looking at closely.
A clever and fascinating biography of the man who created modern zoos, this book would be a welcome read for any class before a trip to the zoo. Appropriate for ages 7-11.
Reviewed from copy received from Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.
A Possum’s Tail by Gabby Dawnay, illustrated by Alex Barrow
Little Samuel Drew walks along the streets of London pulling his toy dog behind him, headed in one particular direction. He passes all sorts of people, markets, even Buckingham Palace on his way to London Zoo. He sees many different animals in the zoo, but it’s the possum family in particular that he’s come to visit. But when he gets there, they are all hanging upside down by their tails, fast asleep. So Samuel heads back home again, not noticing that the possum family has woken up and have grabbed hold of the dog’s tail and are all five following along behind. Once home after creating chaos on the London streets, Samuel serves tea to the possums. But wait! How will they get back to the zoo? Another kind of tail to the rescue.
Dawnay has written this book in rhyming couplets that skip along merrily. The pacing is brisk and the humor is whimsical and deliciously drawn out as Samuel fails to see the possums until he reaches home. There is a delightful moment as Samuel returns homeward and passes the same people going the other way. The text repeats itself again in a lively way, echoing the journey that Samuel made to the zoo.
Barrow’s illustrations add to the joy of the journeys to and fro. He first shows the bustling London streets in a straight forward way, then on the return trip the possums cause quite an uproar, though Samuel doesn’t notice at all. Children will love looking at both sets of pictures and seeing the differences even though the words remain the same. The illustrations have a vintage feel with Samuel in a sailor suit and the dog on a string that hearkens to books like Madeleine.
A clever cheerful read that explores London with humor and whimsy. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy received from Tate.
The Stratford Zoo Midnight Revue Presents: Macbeth by Ian Lendler, illustrated by Zack Giallongo
When the gates shut at night at The Stratford Zoo, the animals come out to play. They steal the keys from one of the zoo keepers as they leave and all of the cages are unlocked. Vendors walk the aisles selling treats like peanuts and earthworms to the growing crowd. Then on stage, the theater begins with the lion as Macbeth. After meeting with the witches, the question is whether Macbeth will eat the king. Lady Macbeth proposes different preparations to make the king taste better, and Macbeth finally succumbs and eats the king. But then, as with any Shakespearean tragedy, others must be eaten too. This is a wild and wonderful combination of Shakespeare, hungers both human and animal, and plenty of humor.
Lendler takes great liberties with Shakespeare’s Macbeth. He combines all of the moments that people remember in the play, from Lady Macbeth trying to wash out the spots of blood to the visits to the three witches and the way their predictions play out. He also adds in lots of slapstick comedy, plenty of asides from the audience and actors, and also shortens the play substantially.
Giallongo’s art is colorful and dramatic. He plays up the drama of the ketchup stains, the growing stomach of the lion, and the ambitions of Lady Macbeth. Comic moments are captured with plenty of humor visually. This zoo is filled with fur, claws, fun and drama.
A perfect combination of Shakespeare and wild animal humor, this will please those who know Macbeth and people knew to the play alike. Appropriate for ages 8-12.
Reviewed from copy received from First Second.
I Know a Bear by Mariana Ruiz Johnson
A little girl gets to know a bear who comes from somewhere that he calls The Land of Bears. Breakfasts there are sweet as honey, the land is vast, and the rivers are lovely for swimming. Even the naps are better there, they go on for months. But he can never return there, since he is in a zoo. So the little girl has an idea, something that will let him feel a connection with the wilderness and something that she can set free. It’s a powerful idea too.
Johnson tells this story in very short sentences, which one might think would be terse but instead feel slow and Zen-like. It is a book about a girl who is forging her own connections with animals, making her own decisions too. There are no adults in the story, just one little girl and one huge hairy bear. It is a book about small choices making a big difference in the world. It is simple and luminous.
Johnson’s illustrations have a wonderful light touch to them. The pages with the huge bear can be dark and filled with fur, but then the book opens to a new page filled with white and lightness. They are studies in contrast but also create a book that is a joy to read through with changes of feel from one page to the next.
An empowering story about one little girl and her connection with one big bear and the beauty of freedom. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from e-galley received from Edelweiss and Schwartz & Wade.
A Mom for Umande by Maria Faulconer, illustrated by Susan Kathleen Hartung
Based on a true story, this picture book tells of how a baby gorilla found a mother of his own. When Umande was born, his mother didn’t know how to care for him. So the keepers of the zoo had to step in and help, taking care of his infant needs and later showing him to to play and eat as a young gorilla. After he was 8 months old, the zoo moved Umande to a different zoo across the country where Lulu, an experienced gorilla mother was waiting for him. They were slowly introduced to one another, but soon enough they were a pair. Umande had found his mother!
This story of a baby gorilla makes a wonderful picture book. Faulconer uses just enough detail about the zoo staff and the efforts they took to raise baby Umande to make it fascinating. She keeps the pace brisk and the story moving forward, making it just the right length for young readers to enjoy. The text also reads aloud well, and this would be a nice addition to story times about mothers.
Hartung’s art captures the charm of gorillas on the page. Even though Umande’s real mother didn’t know how to care for him, the art is carefully done to show that the gorillas are more baffled than mean or careless. The cautious approach of the new mother gorilla and Umande as they are introduced is portrayed in a touching way on the page as is the final connection of the two gorillas.
This book is sure to speak to adoptive families as well as fans of gorillas and zoos. It is a great pick for story times on any of these subjects. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy received from Dial.