Monday, January 19, 2015

(Mostly) True Animal Tales

Nonfiction seems to be a favorite of the boys in our household. Throw in a few animals, and this week's two books are bound to be favorites-- or are they?

My mother put a lot of effort into finding books for the children for Christmas this year--books that would both interest them and books that seemed age-appropriate and had good reviews.  For my 7-year-old son she picked two nonfiction picture books, one about a young Teddy Roosevelt and one about an elephant named Queenie.

As per the way things go when at Grammy's house, the children were tucked in by their loving grandmother. She even read one of the new books to each of the little ones. My 7-year-old picked Queenie: One Elephant's Story which is written by Corinne Fenton and illustrated by Peter Gouldthorpe. After reading the tale, my mother came out to the living room and apologized for reading the book to the children. She was worried that it upset them too much.

You see, this beautifully illustrated book is a true story about an Indian elephant named Queenie who was a mainstay in the Melbourne Zoo in Australia for quite a long time. She gave rides and was a huge attraction. Then one day, *SPOILER ALERT*, she crushed her caretaker. Then she was put to sleep, not only because of the accident, but also because of a food shortage during World War II. 

This book is a good book, but it joins Faithful Elephants: A True Story of Animals, People, and War* (by Yukio Tsuchiya) in the category of good picture books (about zoo elephants who get killed during World War II) that really are not meant for little kids. These books can upset an adult. They are not necessarily kid material; preview them first, especially if your children are young or sensitive.

On to the second book.

One of my main goals in blogging about kids' books is to help parents find "safe", if not great, books for their children to read that the children want to read. It occurred to me a couple of weeks ago that the book in one son's hands had visited his hands more time than I could count, and my other son had also read it more than once. It is True Tales of Animal Heroes by Allan Zullo.

True Tales is a nonfiction chapter book about real animals who rescued kids and teens. The author notes in the beginning that dialogues and situations have been dramatized and names and specific incidents changed, and I definitely saw that while reading it. Overall though, this book was a fun read, and I can see why kids like it. If your child can read it, it's appropriate. My boys started reading it after the Magic Tree House stage of reading; it's fairly easy. I looked to see if it is still in print because it's a Troll book, and I figured it might not be the kind of book that has staying power; many used copies are available on Amazon for a penny each. Animal lovers will love this book.

* When looking online to find the author of Faithful Elephants, I found there are some who dispute the truth of the book and many who object to its strong anti-war propaganda-like message. I just thought I'd let you know since I hadn't really intended on reviewing that book since I hadn't read it for years--but it seemed to go hand-in-hand with Queenie.


  1. I can only imagine how concerned your mother would be. Good heads up to read any books before we gift them to families!

    1. Looks can definitely be deceiving when it comes to children's books. I'm not a big fan of banning books, but I've picked up so many that simply aren't good for younger readers.

      By the way, thank you for always commenting. It sure feels good to know somebody's out there reading :) I don't always have something worthwhile to contribute to your blogposts, but I do enjoy reading them.