Raising Don: The True Story of a Spunky Baby Tapir (Georgeanne Irvine)

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.)

Lost For Words (Natalie Russell)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Lost For Words by Natalie Russell, an adorable tale about the talents that make us special.

Tapir is flummoxed. He has a brand new notebook with fresh blank pages and a new set of sharpened pencils at the ready. Yet when he sets pencil to paper, he cannot think of a single thing to put down; his brain feels as empty as the page. His friends aren’t having any trouble: Giraffe has composed a poetic ode to his favorite tree; Hippo, a thrilling story about a brave (and handsome) hippo; Flamingo, beautiful song about the bright, warm sun. Tapir is proud of his friends, yet wishes he could figure out how to express himself as well. Retreating to a hill, he looks out over the place and creatures he loves, and reflects… and suddenly, he knows just how to express the feelings within.

Lovely. This gentle, sweet tale covers some pretty classic kidlit subject matter: individual talents and skill, artistic block, frustration, and friendship. The lovely ending sees Tapir not only finding his talent, but using it to show appreciation for the ones he cares about, dovetailing the themes smoothly and with considerable warmth. The art manages to create the cuddliest-looking creatures out of simple lines and colors; JJ was especially fascinated by Tapir, an animal who rarely gets a starring role in kidlit. The length is perfect for a short storytime, and we both loved it. A loveable cast and an encouraging tale, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)