cover image The Last Zookeeper

The Last Zookeeper

Aaron Becker. Candlewick, $18.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-5362-2768-0

This beguiling ark story, splendidly drafted in wordless spreads, stars a robot zookeeper who combines the spare-parts body of Wall-E with the gentle bearing of Amos McGee. The enormous robot dwarfs the toylike giraffes, pandas, tigers, and other charismatic megafauna that it cares for in a postapocalyptic landscape of half-submerged architectural gems, and it makes model sailboats after a long day of labor. When rain begins to fall and the sea rises further, the robot gathers the animals and executes a large-scale idea. Usable wreckage, the robot’s fascination with boatbuilding, and its own built-in tools produce a magnificent sloop capable of carrying the whole menagerie to safety—until a massive storm strikes at sea. While the place where the ship grounds is desolate, the unexpected appearance of a new friend changes everything. An epigraph from Jane Goodall makes the story’s conservation message clear, but Becker (The Tree and the River) avoids polemics in favor of worldbuilding that suggests the need for early action, underscores the power of practical measures, and holds out the promise of hope. Ages 5–9. (Mar.)