The Last Zookeeper

Candlewick. Mar. 2024. 40p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781536227680.
PreS-Gr 3–Caldecott Honoree Becker (Journey) reimagines Noah’s tale as a robot in a post-apocalyptic world seemingly devoid of human life. NOA, a turbine-powered robot that dwarfs the animals he cares for, carefully separates the carnivorous tigers from the elephants, giraffes, and hippos as he feeds them each day. Flamingos fly and perch on the tender NOA, who returns to his shelter at night to build small boats. Becker’s art is highly detailed, using watercolor defined by pen and ink that invite inquiry and discussion. NOA bears a dove decal and the animals are surrounded by buildings with carved animal shapes, suggesting the area was once a zoo. When water rises, NOA builds a large ship for the animals and sets sail with a hope that is rewarded. Each small movement of NOA conveys emotion and the value of caring for our planet. NOA’s loneliness, his horror over the rising water, his concern—all are palpable. Although the main story is wordless, this quotation by Jane Goodall appears before the title page: “Only if we understand, can we care. Only if we care, can we help. Only if we help, shall all be saved.” There are beautiful applications for using this title in the classroom and library to jumpstart projects on conservation. Older readers will experience complex feelings watching NOA care for the world in a way so many humans do not.
VERDICT A wordless picture book with so much to say, this is one for all children, and all collections.

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