The Council of Animals

Holt. Jul. 2021. 208p. Tr $25.99. ISBN 9781250799036.
Years after humans caused the Calamity, the animal kingdom realizes there are still a few humans left alive. Terrified that if the humans are left alone, they will simply bring about another Calamity, a council convenes to determine whether the humans should be helped or eaten. But as the council deliberates, true motives, deceptions, and briberies are brought to light. Facing threats from within, a few animals set out to find the rumored human who can speak their language and, as they meet other animals who were not invited to vote, soon realize their goal was not as black and white as they originally believed. With a digression-prone narrator, all-too-human animal characters, a straightforward plot, clever prose, and a heavy-handed allegory underpinning the whole story, McDonell’s tale offers a variety of entry points for a broad audience. Tabbutt’s illustrations add levity and gravity by turn and often serve as stark reminders of the humans’ absence at the vote concerning their own extinction.
VERDICT An Aesop’s fable for the postapocalypse, this is a conversation starter for book clubs, developing readers, and lesson plans exploring literary devices.

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