A solid if not stellar addition to a growing picture-book genre.



In this true story, the African elephant Maggie languishes in an Alaskan zoo until she is transported to the Performing Animal Welfare Society’s facility in California.

The first sentence says, “Once, elephants lived in Alaska—two of them.” The text quickly makes it clear that, despite the book’s title, elephants are not indigenous to Alaska, and the two elephants lived in a zoo. Maggie was a baby when she was transported there to be a companion to an older, Asian elephant named Annabelle. According to the text, the cold climate did not hurt the animals, but Annabelle’s death left Maggie bereft. She took to carrying around a tire as her friend. The paragraph devoted to Maggie’s activities with the tire is entertaining until its concluding sentence, which describes how zookeepers daily find “lonely Maggie and her tire, waiting.” Readers learn of the many efforts made by zookeepers to help the pining pachyderm, with the eventual solution being a complicated move to PAWS, where “Maggie is never alone” and evidently “happy.” The text is clear and concise, intersplicing general facts about elephants, behavioral conditioning, and PAWS with Maggie’s story. Further information is offered at the tale’s end, including a Q-and-A with Maggie’s keeper at PAWS that appropriately complicates the elephant’s “happiness.” The art is accurate but not particularly compelling, with a stiff, retro quality. Registered-trademark symbols in the large-print text are an unwelcome intrusion—do readers really need to know what kinds of candy Maggie ate?

A solid if not stellar addition to a growing picture-book genre. (Informational picture book. 6-9)

Pub Date: Feb. 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-60718-450-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Arbordale

Review Posted Online: Dec. 3, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2018

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A beautifully told and illustrated story that offers a unique perspective on both war and humanity


When the war comes to Syria, many flee, but Alaa stays in his beloved city, Aleppo, where he continues to work as an ambulance driver and helps the wounded to safety.

Day after day, he misses his family and friends who have left, wondering where they are and how they are doing. His neighborhood empties—except for cats! However, these cats are affected by the conflict too; they’re left behind with shelters destroyed and food and water stringently limited. Alaa, who has a big heart, starts taking care of them using the little money he has. The love between man and cats multiplies, and many people from around the world step up to help. Soon, the cats of Aleppo get a pleasant shelter set in a courtyard. However, Alaa does not stop there and goes on to help other animals and more people, spreading joy, love, and hope. Based on a true story, this picture book is distinctive for its engaging narrative and impeccable illustrations. It is also enriched with notes from Alaa himself (the real one) as well as the authors and illustrator. The often-dramatic images offer a glimpse of the city prior to the conflict and a window on the real people who experience war and try to survive and help others around them.

A beautifully told and illustrated story that offers a unique perspective on both war and humanity . (Picture book. 6-9)

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-1378-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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Science at its best: informative and gross.


Why not? Because “IT’S FULL OF GERMS.”

Of course, Ben-Barak rightly notes, so is everything else—from your socks to the top of Mount Everest. Just to demonstrate, he invites readers to undertake an exploratory adventure (only partly imaginary): First touch a certain seemingly blank spot on the page to pick up a microbe named Min, then in turn touch teeth, shirt, and navel to pick up Rae, Dennis, and Jake. In the process, readers watch crews of other microbes digging cavities (“Hey kid, brush your teeth less”), spreading “lovely filth,” and chowing down on huge rafts of dead skin. For the illustrations, Frost places dialogue balloons and small googly-eyed cartoon blobs of diverse shape and color onto Rundgren’s photographs, taken using a scanning electron microscope, of the fantastically rugged surfaces of seemingly smooth paper, a tooth, textile fibers, and the jumbled crevasses in a belly button. The tour concludes with more formal introductions and profiles for Min and the others: E. coli, Streptococcus, Aspergillus niger, and Corynebacteria. “Where will you take Min tomorrow?” the author asks teasingly. Maybe the nearest bar of soap.

Science at its best: informative and gross. (Informational picture book. 6-9)

Pub Date: June 5, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-250-17536-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Neal Porter/Roaring Brook

Review Posted Online: April 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2018

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