Category Archives: Book Reviews

A Review Of Jo Linsdell’s “Out and About At the Zoo”

Out and About At the Zoo by Jo Lindsell is a wonderfully sweet and simple children’s book about a boy going to the zoo with his mother.  It has some of the most playful illustrations I ever saw, and they prove that even simple drawings can really come to life, sometimes even jumping right off of the page!  As a big fan of cartoon movies, I couldn’t help but notice that these illustrations would have been great for animation.  They are definitely the strongest part of the book.  Almost all the illustrations are of zoo animals, and in addition to being very playful, these creatures have adorable facial features and very bright smiles.  In most cases, the illustrations needed no embellishments to come to life, but there are some, in my opinion, that would have been more interesting had extra details been added.

On the first page, for instance, where the boy and his mother are entering the zoo, you can see only their backs.  I would have liked it if I could see their faces, too, even if they were in profile.  Some flowers and trees outside the zoo would have been nice, as well as a sun and some clouds in the sky.  All we see in the background is green grass, blue sky, and a big arch that says “Zoo.”  I would also have liked to see some animals through that arch.  Likewise, in the part about lions and tigers, it would have been nice to see the keepers with meat the text talks about.  In the illustration that shows the exit, it would have been nice to see the boy and his mom leaving. I would also have liked to see all the animals in the last illustration, instead of just the hippo and the parrot.  The last criticism I have for the illustrations is that when I looked at them without reading the text, I found they were very predictable.  That is okay for a simple book like this, but personally, I like illustrations with lots of surprises.

Despite these criticisms, the only negative thing l I have to say about these illustrations is I wanted more!  Needless to say, I loved them.  My favorite is probably the hippos, with their cute pink noses and ears, bathing in beautiful blue water.  The elephants are adorable, too.  I love their big, pink ears and how one of them is blowing water out of his trunk.  I also like the illustration of all the different animals at the beginning and end of the book.

Even though there are some places I think could use more detail, one illustration I think is strong because of its lack of detail is the second to last illustration that shows the boy and his mother holding hands.  Showing them together while the boy states how he likes going places with his mom is a short and sweet way of celebrating the parent child relationship, especially for very young kids. The book could have gone into more detail about the mama kangaroo and her joey to celebrate that relationship more, but maybe that should be saved for another story.

While not as strong as the illustrations, the text is simple and sweet as well as pleasant and engaging for young children.  There are, however, many places where changing the words a little would have made the book sound much better when read aloud.  The second verse, for instance, which talks about parrots, would have sounded much better if, instead of “They went on and on talking for ages,” the book had said something like “Their talking, it went on for ages!”  Also, I would have liked it if there was some detail on what the birds said, but again, maybe this can be the subject of another book.

There are many other instances in this book where changing the wording just a little would have made the text sound much better, but the two verses I thought were great are the verse about monkeys and the verse about zebras.  The monkey verse is my favorite, because it shows, tells, and leaves some things up to the imagination all at once.  It raises questions such as, “Were these monkeys really crazy, or did it just seem that way?” and, “Why were these monkeys screaming?”  All in all, this is a very sweet book about a timeless theme, and I’m sure it will be very engaging for young kids.

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Here is a review I wrote of “Nature’s Way,” a book on Native Americans I read on my own.  If I can find it, I will soon post another review I wrote of Native American nonfiction that was a school assignment.  Later I will post three more reviews of children’s books.

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A Review of Ed McGaa’s Nature’s Way: Native Wisdom for Living in Balance with the Earth

              Nature’s Way is a work of nonfiction by Ed McGaa, a Sioux Indian tribal member.  In his book, McGaa teaches how we, the people of modern American culture, can use traditional Native American philosophies to help heal our planet.  For each chapter there is a different philosophy, and each philosophy is supported by an animal (except for Chapter 8, which is supported by a tree). Each animal, according to McGaa, is capable of teaching its respective philosophy to humans.  For instance, the philosophy of truth is taught by the owl and the philosophy of one among many is taught by the wolf.

The two strongest chapters in Nature’s Way are “Balance in all Things: Lesson of Lion” and “One Among Many: Lesson of Wolf.”  “One Among Many” shows the readers, by way of numerous examples, how acting as one among many, instead of basing our actions on our own worth and importance, can help us begin to help heal the Earth. One example McGaa gives here is a person’s willingness to have his or her body cremated when he dies, instead of wanting a permanent grave that takes up space and possibly causes habitat destruction.  This chapter has the potential of truly helping and educating the reader, because even though most people understand the importance of acting as one among many, we often forget what it means.

“Balance in All Things” speaks mostly of gender equality.  It uses the lion as an example because in a pride of lions, both males and females have important jobs.  The males fight intruders and the females are effective hunters who work in successful, egalitarian groups.  This chapter is a major eye opener, because in addition to lions, it uses examples of Celts, who, according to McGaa, were (and still are) a culture that greatly stresses gender equality.  This chapter also uses examples from ecological feminism, a field of study which equates environmental stewardship with gender equality, specifically women’s rights.

The first seven chapters of this book speak generally of environmental problems, but focus specifically on one philosophy that can help solve many of them.  These chapters differ in this way from the final four, since each of these chapters focuses on a different environmental issue.  These issues are global warming, the hole in the ozone layer, over population, and the loss of biodiversity.  These four chapters are the weaker part of the book.

The main reason these chapters are weak is that most of the information they contain is identical to information documented in many other environmental sources.  This is especially problematic in the global warming chapter, entitled “Heat: Lesson of the Cottonwood Tree.” Since the information documented in this chapter is no different from global warming information elsewhere, it is not likely to make a difference in the minds of global warming skeptics.

The only chapter of these four which may encourage people to look at an issue differently is “Gone: Lesson of Buffalo,” which is about species loss.  Most people understand the concept of endangered species, and this chapter may provide us with information on the issue we have not heard before.  For instance, many people who care about endangered species do not know how many species have become extinct since humans inhabited the Earth, but this information is given in the chapter.  Information such as this may help readers further appreciate the significance of species loss and the loss of biodiversity that comes with it.  All in all, though, the last four chapters are not nearly as strong or educational as the first seven.  If they were stronger, and offered information that is not found in most sources, then this would be a much stronger book.

 

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