cover image Little Sibu: An Orangutan Tale

Little Sibu: An Orangutan Tale

Sally Grindley. Peachtree Publishers, $15.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-1-56145-196-8

Life is cushy for seven-year-old Little Sibu. At night he sleeps with his mother, Hati, in her fresh nest; during the day he fingers Hati's mouth for food, then swings playfully through the endless green rain forest. But Hati knows it's time for her youngster to become more independent. She begins to push him away when he wants to snuggle; she creeps out of the nest early in the morning; she leaves him alone for long periods of time. Little Sibu doesn't understand: He ""howl[s] in protest,"" ""[breaks] off branches and hurl[s] them into the air,"" then ""pushe[s] at a dead tree and watche[s] it crash."" But Hati's gentle persistence eventually wins out, and by book's end Little Sibu has found his way into the ""grown-up world."" Grindley, previously paired with Butler for Polar Star, keeps the tone pleasingly poignant, not sentimental. Factually and emotionally sensitive to the similarities between orangutans and humans, her text is equally attentive to the concerns of mother and child. In her fore-lit watercolors, which give an occasional halo effect to Sibu's orange hair, Butler sets naturalistic details against impressionistic backgrounds. Orangutans' endangerment surfaces only briefly, as part of an endnote; without preaching about the environment, the book admirably strengthens the bond between human and orangutan. Ages 4-8. (Feb.)