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A stirring story of persistence and courage.

Rasila Vadher’s dream of caring for lions began when she visited the Gir Forest as a girl.

Each day after school, young Rasila sold peanuts to help her family make ends meet. On a school trip to the Gir Forest, she learned about the Asiatic lions, which were nearly hunted to extinction. Inspired to protect these magnificent beasts, she seized an opportunity to work as a forest guard, but gendered roles kept her confined to office work. Rasila tamped down her desires but jumped at the chance to head a rescue operation for an injured lioness. Her one face-to-face encounter with a lion left her with a sense of elation. Rasila’s confidence and abilities grew as she took on more responsibilities—catching pythons, patrolling for poachers, caring for abandoned lion cubs at the rescue center, and training other women on the force—which earned her the title Lion Queen. The bright illustrations in vibrant indigos, sunset oranges, and deep greens showcase lush forest landscapes as Singh details how Vadher realized her goal of becoming the first woman forest guard despite the constraints she faced as a woman in a conservative community. Though the narrative is a bit choppy in places, her determination and commitment are deeply moving. Backmatter offers information about Vadher, the other “Lion Queens” hired as rangers in Gujarat in 2007, and Asiatic lions.

A stirring story of persistence and courage. (Picture-book biography. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2023

ISBN: 9781951836849

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Cameron Kids

Review Posted Online: Sept. 9, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2023

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From the Find Momo series , Vol. 7

A well-meaning but lackluster tribute.

Readers bid farewell to a beloved canine character.

Momo is—or was—an adorable and very photogenic border collie owned by author Knapp. The many readers who loved him in the previous half-dozen books are in for a shock with this one. “Momo had died” is the stark reality—and there are no photographs of him here. Instead, Momo has been replaced by a flat cartoonish pastiche with strange, staring round white eyes, inserted into some of Knapp’s photography (which remains appealing, insofar as it can be discerned under the mixed media). Previous books contained few or no words. Unfortunately, virtuosity behind a lens does not guarantee mastery of verse. The art here is accompanied by words that sometimes rhyme but never find a workable or predictable rhythm (“We’d fetch and we’d catch, / we’d run and we’d jump. Every day we found new / games to play”). It’s a pity, because the subject—a pet’s death—is an important one to address with children. Of course, Momo isn’t gone; he can still be found “everywhere” in memories. But alas, he can be found here only in the crude depictions of the darling dog so well known from the earlier books.

A well-meaning but lackluster tribute. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2024

ISBN: 9781683693864

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Quirk Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2023

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From the What if You Had . . .? series

Another playful imagination-stretcher.

Markle invites children to picture themselves living in the homes of 11 wild animals.

As in previous entries in the series, McWilliam’s illustrations of a diverse cast of young people fancifully imitating wild creatures are paired with close-up photos of each animal in a like natural setting. The left side of one spread includes a photo of a black bear nestling in a cozy winter den, while the right side features an image of a human one cuddled up with a bear. On another spread, opposite a photo of honeybees tending to newly hatched offspring, a human “larva” lounges at ease in a honeycomb cell, game controller in hand, as insect attendants dish up goodies. A child with an eye patch reclines on an orb weaver spider’s web, while another wearing a head scarf constructs a castle in a subterranean chamber with help from mound-building termites. Markle adds simple remarks about each type of den, nest, or burrow and basic facts about its typical residents, then closes with a reassuring reminder to readers that they don’t have to live as animals do, because they will “always live where people live.” A select gallery of traditional homes, from igloo and yurt to mudhif, follows a final view of the young cast waving from a variety of differently styled windows.

Another playful imagination-stretcher. (Informational picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: May 7, 2024

ISBN: 9781339049052

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2024

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