Review of The Last Zookeeper

The Last Zookeeper The Last Zookeeper
by Aaron Becker; illus. by the author
Primary, Intermediate    Candlewick    40 pp.
3/24    9781536227680    $18.99

Becker’s (The Tree and the River, rev. 3/23) latest wordless fantasy takes readers to a post-apocalyptic future. Animals in a flooded zoo huddle on exposed bits of dry land; they are tended by an enormous yellow robot with wind turbines mounted on its back. Becker works in landscape orientation, with the robot’s verticality dominating most compositions. Viewers get a sense of its scale by the relative smallness of the animals—it can hold two pandas, an adult and a cub, in its palm. Becker gives readers no clues as to the nature of the calamity that has befallen this place beyond the endless water, the decay of the zoo buildings, and the utter absence of humans. But he does give them some semblance of hope. As the water rises, the robot fashions an ark of sorts. The animals file aboard, and they all set sail on a journey that gives Becker ample opportunity to explore the moods of his seascape. An encounter with another robot, this one blue and powered by solar panels, leads to sanctuary. Its hot air balloon accommodates both robots and all the animals, carrying them to an Edenic island, lush with vegetation and complete with waterfall and rainbow. Becker’s characteristically virtuosic ink and watercolor paintings offer much for young readers to pore over and peer at, which may be enough for many. Others will find the story and the questions it poses lingering long after the book is closed.

From the January/February 2024 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Vicky Smith

Vicky Smith is the children’s editor at Kirkus Reviews. She has served on a bunch of award committees and on the ALSC Board but she speaks for none of them, nor does she speak for this magazine, though it’s nice enough to print her opinions.

Be the first reader to comment.

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing.