Hello, friends! Our book today is Raising Don: The True Story of a Spunky Baby Tapir by Georgeanne Irvine, the true story of a rambunctious little tapir with a will to thrive.
The first Baird’s tapir born at the San Diego Zoo in over 30 years, little Don had a bit of a rough start to life. When it became clear that his mother was rejecting him, zookeepers and staff stepped into raise the little fellow, who proved to be spunky, playful, curious, and (naturally) adorable. Growing up through bottle feedings, taking his first swim, and making friends with other animals, Don was able to celebrate his first birthday at full health, before moving to the Nashville Zoo to someday start a family of his own.
Sweet but unfocused. Don’s story is very cute, and readers will undoubtedly coo over the adorable critter’s first year. The issue is that uneven pacing, unnecessary detail, and a lack of narrative direction make for a tedious journey accompanied by some heartwarming photographs. Had the author picked a specific incident to center Don’s story around – such as making friends with Bristle the capybara, or learning how to swim – it might have made for a compelling book. Instead, the story meanders, attempting to introduce too much exposition and cover too many particulars about tapirs to allow the narrative to focus on its main character. For instance, the care of Don’s mother, Luna, during milking takes up an entire page, before she disappears for the rest of the book, only reappearing at the end to note that she had another baby after Don left San Diego. The book’s length makes this better for older elementary or even young middle grade readers, despite the 6 to 10 recommended age, and JJ lost interest in everything but the photos pretty early on. Overall, while Don’s underdog(tapir?) tale is very heartwarming, something slightly more targeted might have worked better to convey it to young readers. Worth a look, but best enjoyed by those interested in an in-depth tapir education. Otherwise, a different zoo story may be the one for you.
(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by a representative of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)