Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978

Parents' Choice Awards : Books : Non-Fiction
Fur, Fins, and Feathers: Abraham Dee Bartlett and the Invention of the Modern Zoo

Fur, Fins, and Feathers: Abraham Dee Bartlett and the Invention of the Modern Zoo

Fall 2015 Non-Fiction
Ages: 5 - 9 yrs.
Author: Cassandre Maxwell
Illustrator: Cassandre Maxwell
Publisher: Eerdmans
ISBN: 978-0-8028-5432-2
Hardcover Price: $17.00

Abraham Dee Bartlett loved animals more than he loved anything. He wanted to spend as much time as he could with the animals imprisoned in the local menagerie; but as he grew older, he began to realize how bare their lives were, trapped and isolated in tiny cages. No British boy in the 1860s grew up to work with animals; that wasn't a proper job. But still Abraham dreamed, and read. When he was appointed to the London Zoo as its superintendent, Abraham began to change things. By spending time with the animals, he began to notice what they needed-veterinary care, better and more appropriate food, and larger habitats for roaming and hiding. And by mixing with the visitors, he began to notice how he could help them begin to cherish the animals as he did, providing signs with information about the habits and personalities of each animal. When other zookeepers saw how Abraham helped the animals in his zoo, they, too, began to understand how to help the animals in their care.

The story of Abraham Dee Bartlett, who revolutionized zookeeping, is sure to appeal to young animal lovers and dreamers. Maxwell's storytelling pulls the reader in, walking us through how Abraham solves each animal problem he encounters. The illustrations are warm and vivid, lending the animals individual expressions and personalities. The book skates over the tricky issue of how Britain was acquiring all of these African and Asian animals in the midst of imperial expansion; certainly, the narrator does not question the idea that the captive animals were happy in their improved surroundings. Nevertheless, the book is a very interesting read and a good story, which will fascinate young history enthusiasts and animal lovers alike.

Naomi Lesley   ©2015 Parents' Choice
Naomi Lesley taught middle and high school English for six years. She is currently in a doctoral program at the George Washington University, focusing on American young adult literature.

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