Cubs in the Tub: The True Story of the Bronx Zoo's First Woman Zookeeper

by Candace Fleming (Author) Julie Downing (Illustrator)

Cubs in the Tub: The True Story of the Bronx Zoo's First Woman Zookeeper
Reading Level: 2nd − 3rd Grade

Fred and Helen Martini longed for a baby, and they ended up with dozens of lion and tiger cubs! Snuggle up to this purr-fect read aloud about the Bronx Zoo's first female zoo-keeper.

When Bronx Zoo-keeper Fred brought home a lion cub, Helen Martini instantly embraced it. The cub's mother lost the instinct to care for him. Just do for him what you would do with a human baby, Fred suggested...and she did. Helen named him MacArthur, and fed him milk from a bottle and cooed him to sleep in a crib.

Soon enough, MacArthur was not the only cub bathed in the tub! The couple continues to raise lion and tiger cubs as their own, until they are old enough to return them to zoos. Helen becomes the first female zookeeper at the Bronx zoo, the keeper of the nursery.

This is a terrific non-fiction book to read aloud while snuggling up with your cubs! Filled with adorable baby cats, this is a story about love, dedication, and a new kind of family.

Gorgeously patterned illustrations by Julie Downing detail the in-home nursery and a warm pallet creates a cozy pairing with Candace Fleming's lovely language.

Backmatter includes a short biography of Helen Martini and a selected bibliography.

A Junior Library Guild Selection!


Publishers Weekly

There's a fairy tale quality to Fleming's story of Helen Martini, a woman whose longing for a baby was filled by raising a series of orphaned big cat cubs, which unexpectedly led to her becoming the first female zookeeper at the Bronx Zoo. And like many fairy tales, the just-so telling and happily- ever-after ending skim over deeper troubles and complications, specifically the way Martini relates to the animals in her care. Martini's husband was a keeper at the Bronx Zoo. When a lioness rejected her cub, he brought it home for Martini to raise before it was sent to another zoo. After she cares for a trio of tiger cubs, Helen follows them back to the Bronx Zoo, transforming a store room into the zoo's first "nursery": "Her babies needed her." Martini's "mother and child" relationship with these wild animals is both charming and unsettling; an artifact of an earlier era in wildlife stewardship that complicates conservation efforts to this day. Downing's sensitive illustrations shine in a rich, muted palette, using sweeping lines and patterned details to conjure cozy, 1940s-era domestic scenes where lions snooze on laps and tigers frolic in bubble baths. Ages 4-8. (Aug.)

Copyright 2020 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

School Library Journal

PreS-Gr 3--Bronx residents Helen and Fred Martini's wish for children came true in a unique manner: Fred, employed at the Bronx Zoo, brought home a newborn lion. Abandoned by its mother, the infant required tender nurturing. Helen's expert maternal skills allowed the cub to blossom. When he was two months old, the cub was sent to another zoo. In time, Fred brought home three tiger cubs. These babies also thrived. At three months of age, the cubs returned to the Bronx Zoo, but Helen accompanied them, eventually establishing an animal nursery. She secured the job of "keeper of the nursery," the first zookeeper position a woman ever held there. The charming saga of Helen's journey from a homemaker to a pioneering zookeeper is narrated in well-written, accessible prose. Gentle humor is on display in descriptions of the cubs' playful antics. Animal lovers will appreciate the message that animal care requires compassion, concern, and respect. Downing's clean, cheerful illustrations, mostly arranged in panels, delightfully depict the cuddly appeal of Helen's charges and portray endearing human-animal bonds. An interesting author's note provides additional information about Helen's zoo work and her methods of caring for her animal "children" at home. Students may discuss, write about, or illustrate how they care for their pets. Alternatively, educators could have students discuss zoos' roles in the care and protection of animals. VERDICT Charming and adorable; recommended for school and public collections.--Carol Goldman, formerly at Queens Lib., NY

Copyright 2020 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

★ A charming reflection of courage and change.—Booklist, Starred Review

★ Warm, retro cartoon art captures all the adorable and humorous antics of baby animals as Helen undertakes fostering first the lion cub and then, later, four tiger cubs. The art makes it easy to forget the wild nature of these giant cats who like to snuggle and sit in laps, and the interplay between the pictures and the lively text creates a heartwarming and upbeat atmosphere.—The Horn Book, Starred Review

The charming saga of Helen's journey from a homemaker to a pioneering zookeeper is narrated in well-written, accessible prose. . . . Charming and adorable—School Library Journal

The account of romping around an apartment with adorable and affectionate baby big cats will make young audiences purr with joy (and a little envy). Line and watercolor art is cuddly and cozy, with drab wartime colors and lots of period hats in the crowds; the illustrations give the animals plenty of cuteness without overdoing it, keeping Helen Martini's role front and center.—Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

Telling the tale with great attention to detail, Fleming perfectly captures both time and place as well as the loving, determined woman who forged her way in a man's profession. Downing's illustrations in a wide variety of sizes and hues will keep readers' attention glued to the pages and are in sync with the text in every way. . . . A lovely homage to a little-known woman and her quiet achievement.—Kirkus Reviews

There's a fairy tale quality to Fleming's story of Helen Martini, a woman whose longing for a baby was filled by raising a series of orphaned big cat cubs, which unexpectedly led to her becoming the first female zookeeper at the Bronx Zoo. . . . Downing's sensitive illustrations shine in a rich, muted palette, using sweeping lines and patterned details to conjure cozy, 1940s-era domestic scenes where lions snooze on laps and tigers frolic in bubble baths. —Publishers Weekly
Candace Fleming

Candace Fleming is the author of Gabriella's Song. She lives in Mount Prospect, Illinois.

Stacey Dressen-McQueen lives in Portland, Oregon. Boxes for Katje is her first book.

Classification
Non-fiction
ISBN-13
9780823443185
Lexile Measure
N/A
Guided Reading Level
N/A
Publication date
August 20, 2020
Series
-
Junior Library Guild Selection

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