Elem. – Cubs in the Tub: The True Story of the Bronx Zoo’s First Woman Zookeeper

Candace Fleming. Cubs in the Tub: The True Story of the Bronx Zoo’s First Woman Zookeeper. Neal Porter Books. 2020. 978-0-823-44318-5. 47 p. $18.99. Grades K-2.

In the early 1940s, Helen and Fred Martini longed for a baby to fill their home with love, laughter, and cuddles. A baby arrived, but not the one that Helen expected; Fred brought home a lion cub from the Bronx Zoo where he worked. Helen hand-fed and nurtured her charge into a healthy young lion, when he was relocated to a new home at a different zoo. Sorely missing their companion, the Martinis soon welcomed three tiger cubs who relied on Helen for around-the-clock care. Raniganj, Dacca, and Rajpur quickly outgrew their home, but instead of saying goodbye, Helen set up a nursery right on the zoo property! In the process, Helen Martini became the Bronx Zoo’s first female zookeeper (and foster mom to many of its orphaned babies). This delightful picture book biography will hold young readers spellbound with its heartwarming story and adorable pencil and watercolor illustrations, which perfectly match the time period. And whose heart doesn’t melt at the sight of playful tiger cubs splashing in a bathtub?

THOUGHTS: A brief essay about Helen Martini entitled “A Quieter Kind of Hero” rounds out this outstanding title, which rewards repeated readings with special details and the big cats’ equally big personalities.

Picture Book Biography          Amy V. Pickett, Ridley SD

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