Mother to Tigers

Overview

You are a Bengal tiger cub,
one of three — Dacca, Rajpur, Raniganj — abandoned by your mother.
You are so cold and thin that someone with kind hands puts you on a heating pad and sits by you for hours, moistening your mouth with milk.
When you give a weak cry and look up, there is a human face almost crying too.
Your new mother is Helen ...

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Overview

You are a Bengal tiger cub,
one of three — Dacca, Rajpur, Raniganj — abandoned by your mother.
You are so cold and thin that someone with kind hands puts you on a heating pad and sits by you for hours, moistening your mouth with milk.
When you give a weak cry and look up, there is a human face almost crying too.
Your new mother is Helen Delaney Martini, who has already raised a lion cub in her New York apartment. Tigers in the bathtub will be no problem for her and her husband, Fred.
This remarkable book — strikingly striped as tigers are, sympathetically spoken as any child could wish — tells the story of Helen Martini, founder of the Bronx Zoo's animal nursery in 1944 and its first woman zookeeper.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Arresting art illuminates Lyon and Catalanotto's (previously teamed for Who Came Down That Road?) tribute to Helen Martini, founder of the Bronx Zoo's animal nursery. On each spread, mixed-media images on torn-paper panels form jagged, vertical stripes around the white space that encloses the lyrical text, contributing to the drama and sense of urgency. Watercolor paintings are drenched in sunlight while charcoals and chalks on brown paper reinforce the 1940s context. A prefatory poem ("Suppose you were a lion cub-abandoned") will get readers' attention with its tale of a woman rearing a lion cub in a city apartment; the main story then backs up to describe Helen and her husband, who worked at the Bronx Zoo (he had been a jeweler until Helen urged him to "follow [his] heart/ and work at the Zoo"). A triptych of two giraffes, a pair of elephants and a polar bear swimming underwater make clear the irresistible hold the animals have on the couple. Her husband is the one who brings home the abandoned lion cub, which is to be the first of many young animals Helen tends before creating a nursery at the Zoo. "Starting out," says Lyon, Helen "didn't get paid/ but that wasn't what mattered./ She was following her heart." Although the follow-your-dream theme may be trumpeted a bit strongly, the story cannot miss its mark as animal lovers appreciate Helen's love for and commitment to saving nature's newest members. Ages 5-8. (Mar.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Children's Literature
Based on a true story, this beautifully illustrated picture book introduces young readers to Helen Frances Theresa Delaney Martini, the first woman zookeeper at the Bronx Zoo and founder of the zoo's animal nursery in 1944. With carefully chosen text, the author gently tells Helen's story and describes how this dedicated, hard-working woman made a difference in the lives of several young animals. After convincing her husband, Fred, to get a job at the Bronx Zoo, Helen accepts his invitation to care for a small, sickly lion cub named MacArthur. Not long after, she takes on the challenging task of nursing a litter of three Bengal tigers back to health. When it becomes obvious to her that other zoo babies need special care, she decides to create a one-of-a-kind nursery at the Bronx Zoo. Over the years, she raises twenty-seven tigers and cares for a variety of young animals including yapoks, marmosets, gorillas, chimpanzees, deer, ring-tailed lemurs, lions, jaguars, and leopards. Catalanotto's remarkable illustrations are a wonderful combination of watercolor, charcoal and torn paper. The author also includes a fascinating "Author's Note" at the end of the book. This is the sixth picture book collaboration by this amazing author-artist team. Other books of note include Mama Is a Miner, Dreamplace, and Book. 2003, Atheneum Books for Young Readers,
— Debra Briatico
School Library Journal
Gr 1-3-Helen Martini cared for both lion and tiger cubs in her New York City apartment before building the Bronx Zoo's first nursery back in 1944. This simple account of how her husband and then Helen herself became animal keepers draws on Martini's long out-of-print adult book, My Zoo Family (Harper, 1955). Lyon places an introductory segment before the title page, inviting readers into the experience of the first lion cub Martini took in: "Suppose you were a lion cub-abandoned.- and a man came in the cage and lifted you into a case and put you in a car to go home with him." The story is then told in the third person to convey the early days of home animal care by the Martinis and the development of the nursery. The first golden cubs give way to a fine array of animals that have thrived in this much-needed facility. Catalanotto adds a bold graphic dimension to the story with torn-paper strips mounted as irregular picture panels on many pages. Charcoal sketches on brown paper are intermingled with full-color views. On a couple of pages, multiple images of Helen appear in a frame to emphasize the chaotic busyness of caring for energetic cubs and performing the many tasks of readying the nursery. A brief author's note adds a bit more information about the subject. This handsome and intriguing real-life story will be savored as independent and shared reading and useful as simple nonfiction for varied classroom purposes.-Margaret Bush, Simmons College, Boston Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
This true story, although slight, will go right to the hearts of young animal lovers. In the 1940s, Helen Martini started to care for baby animals her husband brought home temporarily from his job at the Bronx Zoo. Knowing that not all needy animal babies could come to their apartment, Martini offered to start a nursery at the zoo and then became its first female zookeeper. In spare, lyrical prose, Lyon (Gina. Jamie. Father. Bear, 2002, etc.) begins before the title page with a second-person prologue to draw children in, starting, "Suppose you were a lion cub--abandoned." Then in the more conventional third-person, she conveys Martini’s story and her pleasure in her work with well-chosen details, many of them about animals. The illustrations alternate luminous watercolor with charcoal drawings on brown paper, each picture shown on torn paper and arranged on the page like tiger’s stripes. This design choice varies in its effectiveness, making some pages look cluttered while those with one large picture paired with a simple colored stripe work well. Catalanotto’s (Matthew ABC, 2002, etc.) watercolors, which outshine the charcoal drawings, are especially breathtaking in the close-ups of lion and tiger faces. An afterword tells more about Martini and her accomplishments as well as how Lyon learned about her. A photograph on the back cover of the author at the Bronx Zoo as a ten-year-old, holding a book by Helen Martini, adds another personal note. (Picture book. 4-9)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780689842214
  • Publisher: Atheneum/Richard Jackson Books
  • Publication date: 2/4/2003
  • Edition description: FIRST
  • Pages: 32
  • Sales rank: 788,758
  • Age range: 5 - 8 Years
  • Product dimensions: 11.00 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

George Ella Lyon grew up just down the road from Blanton Forest, the largest old growth forest in Kentucky, and has always felt most at home in the woods. Some of her recent titles include the ALA Notable All the Water in the World, the Schneider Family Book Award–winner The Pirate of Kindergarten, the Jane Addams Peace Award Honor Book You and Me and Home Sweet Home, and Planes Fly! A novelist and poet, she lives with her family in Lexington, Kentucky. You can find out more online at GeorgeEllaLyon.com.

Peter Catalanotto has written fifteen books for children, including Monkey & Robot, Question Boy Meets Little Miss Know-It-All, Ivan the Terrier, Matthew A.B.C., and Emily’s Art, of which School Library Journal said in a starred review, “Whether viewed from afar or up close, this creative and heartfelt book is a masterpiece.” Peter has illustrated more than forty books, among them several collaborations with George Ella Lyon. Their Mother to Tigers received a starred review in School Library Journal and was one of the New York Public Library’s 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing in 2003. He lives in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.

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Read an Excerpt


You are a Bengal tiger cub,
one of three — Dacca, Rajpur, Raniganj — abandoned by your mother.

You are so cold and thin that someone with kind hands puts you on a heating pad and sits by you for hours, moistening your mouth with milk.

When you give a weak cry and look up, there is a human face almost crying too.

Your new mother is Helen Delaney Martini, who has already raised a lion cub in her New York apartment. Tigers in the bathtub will be no problem for her and her husband, Fred.

This remarkable book — strikingly striped as tigers are, sympathetically spoken as any child could wish — tells the story of Helen Martini, founder of the Bronx Zoo's animal nursery in 1944 and its first woman zookeeper.

Read More Show Less

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