ZooBorns: The Newest, Cutest Animals from the World’s Zoos and Aquariums

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

ZooBorns is a non-fiction picture book portrait gallery of roughly 100 baby animals born in zoos and aquariums around the world.  Each “zooborn” is featured with several photos, and basic biographical information—name (if the baby has one), species, location of the zoo or aquarium where it lives, date of birth, and the conservation status of its species (e.g., extinct in the wild, endangered, critically endangered, threatened, etc.).

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

Asian small-clawed otters; Photo credits: Jason Collier / SeaWorld Orlando

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, which might be the best fit for kids of three to five years.)  The attractive colors, artful layout, and small baby-animal-size of the book add to its subjective appeal.

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

Tamandua (Lesser anteater); Photo credits: David Collier / Discovery Cove

The developmental value of ZooBorns is also clear.  First, the picture book contains obviously educational information about the featured animals, which helps children learn about the world.  Moreover, given the number of rare and generally unfamiliar animals in the picture book, it will help expand most children’s conception of the animal kingdom beyond the standard sub-Saharan African canon (though some cute sub-Saharan African animals are included too).

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.

Red kangaroo; Photo credits: Darlene Stack / Assiniboine Park Zoo

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 goes directly to support the conservation efforts of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.  Thus, the book is directly good in a very concrete way.  Indeed, by purchasing the book you have an opportunity to demonstrate to a child the value of action on behalf of the natural environment.  You can also visit the phenomenal (!) ZooBorns website for more information about the book, and more cute animals.

In short, I highly recommend ZooBorns.  This picture book boasts attractive photos, interesting and rare animals, and stirs children to value conservation and the natural environment.  Thus, I encourage you to support conservation efforts, and my efforts to review quality books, by purchasing the book through the links in this post, or the Children’s Books and Reviews online bookstore.  This book would make a great holiday gift!

Did you enjoy this review?  Do you have something to share about the book?  Leave me a comment; I’d love to hear from you.  And while you’re at it, why not “like” this review (button at the top of the post), or share it on Facebook or Twitter?  The “Share/Save” button below makes it easy.  Thanks!

Disclosure: Review copy of book received from publicist.

Categories: 6 to 8 yearsBook Reviews
Tags: Andrew BleimanAquariumBaby AnimalsChildren's BooksChris EastlandNon-fictionPicture BooksZooZooBorns
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