Elem. – Arlo: The Lion Who Couldn’t Sleep

Rayner, Catherine. Arlo: The Lion Who Couldn’t Sleep. Peachtree, 2020. $17.99. 978-1-682-63222-2. 32 p. Grades K-2. 

Everyone knows that lions need a lot of sleep. Exhausted Arlo the lion searched high and low for a good place to sleep, but all he finds are faults. “The grass was too prickly and the earth was too hard” while the “sun is too hot and the night is too cold.” Nearing desperation, Arlo encounters an owl who shares her secret song for sleeping through the daytime with less than perfect conditions. Before long, Arlo is using the song to calm his mind and body to fall asleep. Feeling fully rested Arlo is excited to share with his friends whom he awakens in his excitement. Thus, the story repeats for two cycles as the lion helps his friends perfect the technique until everyone is sound asleep. Brief, repetitive text is spread sparsely over the soothing mixed media artwork featuring watercolor, screenprint, acrylic ink, and pencil allowing readers to become absorbed in the mindful message and find stillness.

THOUGHTS: A nice gentle storybook featuring elements of meditation and mindfulness for children. Delightful as a stand-alone story or a good introduction to a breathing, meditation, and mindfulness lesson.

Picture Book          Jackie Fulton, Mt. Lebanon SD 

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

Elementary NF – Glow; Cecil’s Pride; Crossing Niagra


Beck, W. H. Glow: Animals with Their Own Night-Lights. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016. 978-0-544-41666-6. $17.99. Gr. 1-3.

This book is a must for any elementary library! With vivid, detailed photographs of animals and some plants, Glow explains to children what bioluminescence is. Discussing some land creatures, but mostly focusing on aquatic life, this book gives scientific information, but explains it in such a way that children will not find it overwhelming. It also gives reasons why these animals might use bioluminescence. The main story is told in larger font for younger children, and if the students want more in-depth information smaller lettering on each page gives specific animal names and details. At the end of the book there is additional information, including the actual size of these life forms (many of which are tiny) and where they live. A bibliography gives more information for those children left wanting to learn more. THOUGHTS: As someone always looking for eye-catching non-fiction books, I loved this book! It’s a perfect read-aloud for grades K-4 and also provides a great introduction for science curricula. A few of the pictures might be intimidating to some younger, more squeamish children, but 1st grade and up are fine.

572; Animals   Emily Woodward, The Baldwin School



Hatkoff, Craig. Cecil’s Pride: The True Story of a Lion King. New York: Scholastic, 2016. 978-1338-034455. $17.99. unpaged. Gr. 1-5.

Craig Hatkoff and his two daughters add to their Turtle Pond Publications which began with the popular Owen and Mzee.  In this title, they focus on Cecil, the black-mane lion of Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe.  Cecil gained worldwide attention when he was lured out of the Park to be hunted and killed by an American dentist and hunter.  This event is never mentioned here. “Everyone knew how Cecil died. We would tell the story of how Cecil lived.” And so, readers learn of how Cecil’s life was watched by wildlife researcher Brent Stapelkamp, and how he and Jericho, another male lion, had uncharacteristically led a pride of lions together without rivalry.  Upon Cecil’s death, Jericho appeared to search for Cecil. Brent worried that Jericho would kill Cecil’s cubs, a common lion practice with the rise of a new leader.  Instead, Jericho became the cub’s protector, and the cubs are now thriving in Jericho’s pride. THOUGHTS: This book beautifully showcases Cecil’s life with full-color photographs of his cubs, his pride, and of course, Jericho.  The text is more suited to slightly older students, who will also embrace these beautiful lions and the species conservation plea.  Use this as a read-aloud, or as a starter or centerpiece for the study of endangered species.  Many students will be drawn to the wildlife researcher’s efforts and they will be moved by the amazing story shared.

599.7; Lions     Melissa Scott, Shenango High School



Tavares, Matt. Crossing Niagara: The Death-Defying Tightrope Adventures of the Great Blondin. Somerville: Candlewick Press, 2016. 978-0-7636-6823-5. Unpaged. $17.99. Gr. 2-5.

Jean Francois Gravelet began his tightrope-walking career at the tender age of 5 as a circus performer. His fame grew as the years passed, and soon he was known worldwide as the Great Blondin. After a visit to Niagara Falls, he decided that he wanted to cross the famous landmark in the best way he knew—on a tightrope. While other acrobats laughed, he knew that he could do it and he did; not just once, but numerous times during the summers of 1859 and 1860. He even incorporated fancy tricks and walked with a man on his back! This short biography is sure to thrill readers of all ages. Tavares’ illustrations showcase Blondin’s death-defying tricks and the beautiful landscape of Niagara. The book contains an Author’s Note and bibliography. THOUGHTS: An interesting, exciting nonfiction read-aloud for all elementary ages. Pair this book with Mordicai Gerstein’s “The Man Who Walked Between the Towers” or Chris Van Allsburg’s “The Queen of the Falls” for two different kinds of adventure-filled story times.

791.34       Lindsey Long, Nye & Conewago Elementary Schools