Man in top hat and waistcoast lifts a lemur up while 2 nineteenth century children look on.Before you visit the zoo next time, read this book. Then look for all the ways that Abraham Dee Bartlett helped create your zoo experience: informational signs, veterinary care, naturalistic habitat, all of them can be traced back to this self-taught nineteenth century zoo director.

The book begins with Bartlett’s childhood, with one-on-one encounters with wild animals and much private study. We see him get a job as an adult preparing taxidermied animals for display and then finally rejoice with him when he’s named the director of the London Zoo, where he can work with live animals. The book shows Bartlett’s sensitivity to both human visitors and to his animal kingdom residents. He comes up with innovations to make the visitors’ trips more informative and interesting and he insists that animals be treated compassionately, not an obvious proposition in his time.

If you’re looking for a mentor text to teach alliteration, this would be a fun title. As the title promises, there are lots of examples of alliteration within the text: “feel of their fur,” “fulfill his fondest wish,” “camels and coatis, lemurs and leopards.”

Mostly, though, this is a book for zoo-lovers everywhere.

On her website, Maxwell talks about her pastel with paper collage method, used in the illustrations here. One minute book trailer here.  And don’t forget to spend time with the fun endpapers; they’re covered in bits of text and scraps of image that didn’t make the cut into the main text of the book but are, nonetheless, fascinating.

Thanks to one of my favorite blogs, The Nonfiction Detectives, for telling me about this book.

Fur, Fins, and Feathers: Abraham Dee Bartlett and the Invention of the Modern Zoo by Cassandre Maxwell. (Eerdmans: 2015)