SAVING THE BAGHDAD ZOO

A TRUE STORY OF HOPE AND HEROES

Loaded with reader appeal, these tales of animal rescue focus on the animals but also provide some insight into what Baghdad was like in the wake of the U.S. invasion. Basing her account on numerous interviews—notably with co-author Sumner, then a Captain in the U.S. Army 354th Civil Affairs Brigade, who led international efforts to recapture and safely house wild animals held in the city’s zoos—Halls tracks multiple forays into devastated areas in search of creatures that were often starving, thirsty and trapped in hideous conditions. Each outing presented different challenges, from a bear given so much alcohol by drunken zookeepers that it was immune to anesthetic darts to more than a dozen hugely valuable Arabian racehorses held in a compound guarded by probably armed thieves. That's not to mention the difficulties of transport past snipers, providing medical care and finding proper food for pelicans, lions, camels and others. The narrative downplays violence in favor of success stories; that upbeat tone and the many bright, engaging color photos will leave younger audiences more pleased than disturbed. (source notes; introduction and epilogue by the co-author) (Nonfiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-06-177202-3

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 18, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2010

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THE TIGER RISING

Themes of freedom and responsibility twine between the lines of this short but heavy novel from the author of Because of Winn-Dixie (2000). Three months after his mother's death, Rob and his father are living in a small-town Florida motel, each nursing sharp, private pain. On the same day Rob has two astonishing encounters: first, he stumbles upon a caged tiger in the woods behind the motel; then he meets Sistine, a new classmate responding to her parents' breakup with ready fists and a big chip on her shoulder. About to burst with his secret, Rob confides in Sistine, who instantly declares that the tiger must be freed. As Rob quickly develops a yen for Sistine's company that gives her plenty of emotional leverage, and the keys to the cage almost literally drop into his hands, credible plotting plainly takes a back seat to character delineation here. And both struggle for visibility beneath a wagonload of symbol and metaphor: the real tiger (and the inevitable recitation of Blake's poem); the cage; Rob's dream of Sistine riding away on the beast's back; a mysterious skin condition on Rob's legs that develops after his mother's death; a series of wooden figurines that he whittles; a larger-than-life African-American housekeeper at the motel who dispenses wisdom with nearly every utterance; and the climax itself, which is signaled from the start. It's all so freighted with layers of significance that, like Lois Lowry's Gathering Blue (2000), Anne Mazer's Oxboy (1995), or, further back, Julia Cunningham's Dorp Dead (1965), it becomes more an exercise in analysis than a living, breathing story. Still, the tiger, "burning bright" with magnificent, feral presence, does make an arresting central image. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-7636-0911-0

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2001

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A colorful cast in which even the ferocious Silversides comes in for a dash or two of sympathy, plus a plot replete with, of...

RAGWEED

A TALE FROM DIMWOOD FOREST

From the Poppy series , Vol. 1

Avi elaborates on the “city mouse, country mouse” theme in this rousing prequel to Poppy (1995), starring Poppy’s ill-fated beau.

Impelled by wanderlust to hop a train to who-knows-where, Ragweed ends up in the rundown part of Amperville, where the local mice (all named after car parts) are being terrorized by Felines Enraged About Rodents (F.E.A.R.), a two-cat extermination squad led by evil-tempered Silversides. After several brushes with death, Ragweed defiantly teams up with Clutch, green-furred lead guitarist for the B-Flat Tires, to open a dance club for mice only, then in the climax organizes a devastating counterattack that sends F.E.A.R. scurrying out of town. In the end, though, Ragweed opts for the country life (little knowing that it’s going to be sweet but short).

A colorful cast in which even the ferocious Silversides comes in for a dash or two of sympathy, plus a plot replete with, of course, narrow squeaks will keep readers turning the pages, while Floca’s scenes of tiny mice fleeing looming, toothy predators add more than a touch of drama .(Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: May 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-380-97690-0

Page Count: 178

Publisher: Avon/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1999

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