Title: ZooBorns: The Newest, Cutest Animals from the World’s Zoos and Aquariums
Authors: Andrew Bleiman, Chris Eastland
Genre: Non-Fiction Picture Books
Age Category: 6 to 9 years
Non-Fiction Picture Book Summary
Along with the basic data, the book provides information and anecdotes about each animal, sometimes including part of the story of the particular baby animal in the photos (e.g., if it was rescued, what its personality is like, what it likes to do, etc.), and interesting facts about the species. In particular, the book highlights connections between zoo breeding programs and efforts to conserve threatened or endangered animal populations.
Subjective Appeal: Cute, Interesting Animals, Beautiful Photos
Needless to say, this picture book has a lot of subjective appeal. Kids will love the illustrations, which are beautiful photos of the incredibly cute baby animals. I mean, baby animals people; what’s not to love? The several photos scattered throughout this post tell you what I can’t tell you in words. Indeed, the photos are so interesting that I think kids as young as three years might enjoy them, though the text might not be as meaningful for them. (There is also a version of the book for younger kids called ZooBorns! Zoo Babies from Around the World
The theme of the picture book is also very attractive. Specifically, the species information and brief animal anecdotes are endearing. For example, for two tiny, orphaned Emperor tamarins born in captivity, “A soft toothbrush simulated a grooming session with mom” (p.65). Picture a tiny monkey that can fit in the palm of your hand being brushed with a soft toothbrush (All together now: “aaawww…”). With anecdotes like this, the book uses the attractive power of narrative, even while remaining a non-fiction picture book.
Moreover, the selection of featured animals is far from ordinary. For example, who knew about aye-ayes, bushbabies, and short-beaked echidnas? It turns out that short-beaked echidnas are one part platypus (the only other egg-laying mammal), one part anteater (“The echidna’s tongue moves in and out rapidly when slurping up ants, as fast as 100 times per minute!” p. 58), and one part porcupine—though it is born naked and has to grow into its protective spines. This is a very interesting creature! You’ll have to read the book to find out about the other two…
Developmental Value: Conservation and Valuing the Natural Environment
The developmental value of ZooBorns
Second, this non-fiction picture book encourages learning about the population status of the animals (which is, in many cases, shaky), and thus the importance of conservation efforts. Indeed, the brilliance of this book is that it combines affective elements—cute animals and their stories—with crucial information about threatened members of the animal kingdom. In this way, the book helps kids to care about and value these animals, rather than merely to learn about them. Thus, the book shares an important lesson in valuing the natural environment and its inhabitants.
The book also explicitly links the work of zoos and aquariums with conservation, expanding a child’s (and for that matter, an adult’s) view of what zoos and aquariums are about. As the picture book makes clear—perhaps contrary to popular belief—zoos and aquariums are not, generally, cruel institutions where animals languish for the sake of human entertainment. Rather, zoos and aquariums have become essential players in the effort to sustain vulnerable animal populations.
Finally, it is worth mentioning that a portion of the sales of ZooBorns
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Disclosure: Review copy of book received from publicist.