Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Fur, Fins, and Feathers: Abraham Dee Bartlett and the Invention of the Modern Zo

Fur, Fins, and Feathers: Abraham Dee Bartlett and the Invention of the Modern Zo

Cassandra Maxwell
Nonfiction Picture Book
For ages 6 to 8
Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2015   ISBN: 978-0802854322

From a very young age Abraham Dee Bartlett loved animals. One of Abraham’s father’s friends had a wild animal menagerie and Abraham would often go to look at the animals. He was even able to interact with some of the creatures and he took lions cubs and other young animals out of their cages so that he could play with them. He always felt bad when it was time to lock them up again, for the animals in the collection had “no space to explore, no place to hide, nothing to play with.” They often went hungry and their keepers were sometimes unkind to them. Abraham was determined that he would do what he could to help the animals, and so he began to learn as much as he could about animals of all kinds. Abraham hoped that he would one day be able to work with animals in some capacity.

The problem was that in the early 1800’s there were not many jobs involving animals. For a while Abraham worked hard preparing animal specimens for the Museum of Natural History in London. He did such a remarkable job, and was clearly so knowledgeable, that he was then given the job of being the next superintendent of the zoo.

Bartlett began to make changes in the zoo. He hired people who cared for animals and who were knowledgeable about them. He began to label the exhibits and offered visitors guidebooks that they could buy. He realized how important it was for the animals in the zoo to have “a balanced diet.” However, the cages the animals were in were still too small, so Abraham began to have proper enclosures built for the animals so that they would be able to have a better quality of life.

On the pages of this engaging and interesting picture book biography, young readers will meet a man who had a huge impact on how animals in zoos were kept and treated. Every illustration is was created by using layered cut-paper techniques, which gives the artwork a rich quality this is, quite frankly, amazing to see.

At the back of the book a timeline and author’s note provide readers with further information about Abraham Dee Bartlett’s life and work.