Maxwell presents a brief biography of Abraham Dee Bartlett, the self-taught animal expert who became superintendent of the London Zoo in 1859 and subsequently made significant improvements in the understanding, care, and treatment of animals in captivity.
The combination of interesting details, attractive illustrations, and direct narration make this introduction to a (most likely) little-known historical figure accessible and appealing. Beginning with Bartlett’s childhood fascination with animals, the text travels briskly through the events of his long life, picking out those most germane to the topic (his recognition of the importance of good nutrition and comfortable and stimulating environments for the animals and of the value of providing educational information for visitors) as well as those most likely to pique young listeners’ interest (his treatment of animals who needed medical care, the zoo’s purchase of Jumbo the elephant). Complex ideas are presented clearly, and personal details add depth despite the brevity of the text. The pictures feature pleasing textures and rich colors. Executed in cut-paper collage and mixed media, they range from cozy interiors, like Abraham’s book-strewn childhood bedroom, to expansive outdoor vistas. Animals of all sorts decorate the pages, offering children the chance to identify familiar species and wonder over unusual specimens.
Sure to spark the interest of animal-loving children, this engaging portrait will also please history buffs and Anglophiles. (timeline, author’s note, bibliography) (Picture book/biography. 5-8)