News & Reviews

The True Story of the Bronx Zoo's First Woman Zookeeper



Neal Porter Books

Holiday House Publishing

(pub. 8.4.2020) 48 pages

Author: Candace Fleming

Illustrator: Julie Downing

Character: Helen Martini

Overview: "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." Tantalizing taste:

"At the zoo, she turned the glass-paneled cage into a cozy home. Blankets. Bottles. Boxes of toys. Good thing Helen brought them all . Then peeking around the partition, she watched her babies play. She called them back for naps and snacks and cuddles."

And something more: Candace Fleming writes in A Quieter Kind of Hero: "[Helen Martini] was indispensable. In her two decades as the 'animal nursery keeper,' she cared for hundreds of babies, including a chimpanzee, two orangutans, three gorillas, a ring-tailed lemur, a pair of ocelots, a skunk, a sea lion a little of common marmosets, a round-tailed ground squirrel, an addax, a sika deer, and a long-eared hedgehog from Cyprus. The nursery, admitted Helen, often looked 'like Noah's ark.'"

Artist -Architect of Light and Lines


Christy Ottaviano Books

Henry Holt and Company


A uthor: Jeanne Walker Harvey and illustrator: Dow Phumiruk C haracter: Maya Lin O verview from the jacket flap: "You may be familiar with the iconic Vietnam Veterans Memorial, but do you know about the artist-architect who created this landmark?

As a child, Maya Lin loved to study the spaces around her. She explored the forest in her backyard, observing woodland creatures, and used her house as a model to build tiny towns out of paper and scraps. The daughter of a clay artist and a poet, Maya grew up with art and learned to think with her hands as well as her mind. From her first experiments with light and lines to the height of her success nationwide, this is a the story of an inspiring American artist." T antalizing taste:

"The first time Maya visited

the finished wall, she searched

for the name of the father of a friend.

When she touched the name, she cried,

just as she knew others would.

Thousands came that Veterans Day

to see and touch and remember.

Salutes, hands on hearts, honoring.

And every day since then,

visitors have done the same."

and something more: I wanted to share this post (that I first posted on my TRUE TALES & A CHERRY ON TOP blog) because I continue to feel deep appreciation and admiration for everyone who has been involved in the creation of this book -- Deborah Warren of East West Literary Agency (my incredible agent who found a home, a perfect home, for my manuscript), Dow Phumiruk (the amazing illustrator who absolutely astounded me with her talent and perception), Christy Ottaviano (the publisher/editor who edited with the perfect gentle touch and allowed the book to blossom with her attention to detail and incredible talent and experience), and everyone else at Ottaviano Books/Henry Holt who contributed to the book.

A picture book is truly a collaborative process, and so many people had a part in it. I truly feel as if I've won the literary lottery with the publication of this book -- it's more than I ever envisioned.

Thank you also to my dear family and friends who always support me and encourage me in my writing. I am honored and humbled to have had the opportunity to write this book about Maya Lin and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. And it's been such an honor to share this book with children who continue to amaze me with their sensitivity and perceptions.

Balzer + Bray

(Harper Collins)

pub. 1.19.2021

40 pages

A True Tale with

A Cherry On Top Author: Megan Reid and illustrator: Aaliya Jaleel

Character: Maryam Mirzkhani


"As a little girl, Maryam Mirzakhani was spellbound by stories. She loved reading in Tehran’s crowded bookstores, and at home she'd spend hours crafting her own tales on giant rolls of paper.

Maryam loved school, especially her classes in reading and writing. But she did not like math. Numbers were nowhere near as interesting as the bold, adventurous characters she found in books. Until Maryam unexpectedly discovered a new genre of storytelling: In geometry, numbers became shapes, each with its own fascinating personality—making every equation a brilliant story waiting to be told.

As an adult, Maryam became a professor, inventing new formulas to solve some of math's most complicated puzzles. And she made history by becoming the first woman—and the first Iranian—to win the Fields Medal, mathematics’ highest award."

Tantalizing taste: "People even called one of her discoveries 'the magic wand theorem' because it worked like magic to solve many problems that scientists had been puzzling over for more than a hundred years. She explained it using the image of a pool table, with balls that zigged and zagged forever. If you covered the balls in paint, how long would it take for their scattered paths to color the table completely?"

And something more: In the Author's Note, Megan Reid writes "I was sad that I had learned about this heroic figure only after she had passed away. I wished I could have let her know how much I admired her. But I was enchanted by a tidbit near the end of the article: 'Dr. Mirzakhan often dived into her math research by doodling on vast pieces of paper ... with equations at the edges.' How exciting that a brilliant mathematician was also an artist, would could bring the secrets of the infinite universe down to her living room floor."

Where to find Jeanne Walker Harvey books

Jeanne has reviewed over 150 picture book biographies here and

previously on her blog  titled  TRUE TALES