By Awnali Mills
Lizzie Durango and her father live in a zoo near the edge of Yosemite National Park. Her father is one of the zookeepers, so Lizzie pretty much has the run of the zoo. Then, she runs into a young man, Tyler, who seems to be way too hungry. They become friends, and she realizes that he’s been living at the zoo, behind the elephant house. Not only that, but he’s observed strange things happening in the zoo at night. The wolves in the zoo are getting sick, and Lizzie and Tyler are determined to find out what’s going on. Their determination will take them to places they never expected.
This was one of our new books, and the moment I saw it was written by Elise Broach, I knew I wanted to read it. As always, Broach has woven historical details into her story; in this case, the journals and lost cabin of John Muir. The historical details and pictures bring a richness to the book, and may inspire kids to read more about this important environmental thinker and activist. Personally, I love stories about the history of the western national parks, and the people who loved them enough to save them for me.
There’s some deep questions being asked in this book: when are animals better off in a zoo versus the wild? How should the past shape our futures, both internally and externally? When is it okay (if ever) to keep secrets from your parents? Because the wolves are such a big part of this book, and because there are both female and male protagonists, I think this book would be a great one for reading and discussing as a class. Put this book into the hands of kids who love animals, mysteries, and nature.