Reviews for Saving the Baghdad Zoo : A True Story of Hope and Heroes

Booklist Reviews 2010 February #2
Bolstered with large, beautiful color photos and informative sidebars, this dramatic picture-book-size photo-essay tells of the U.S. army rescue of zoo animals in the Iraqi war zone. The authors investigate what the rescue effort has done for the animals--including lions, tigers, dromedaries, bears, Arabian horses, tortoises, cheetahs, and more--as well as diplomacy, building bridges between the American military and the Iraqi people, especially the zoo workers. The rescue stories of human-animal bonding include close-up photos and facts. Archaeologist Sumner serves as a general in Iraq and is still active in protecting the zoo and its cultural heritage, and his first-person eyewitness accounts are woven in with Hall's overview. Together, the authors address the continuing controversies: Why save the animals and not focus on the people? Why not return wild animals to their natural habitats? Many readers will be drawn into the debates about the ongoing role of the U.S. in Iraq. Copyright 2010 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2010 Fall
This moving photo essay reveals how Americans and Iraqis, with assistance from international animal welfare groups, worked together to relocate and rehabilitate zoo animals abandoned in their cages when the war began. Today the reopened Baghdad Zoo provides sanctuary for animal inhabitants and human visitors alike. A strong thread of emotion pulls together the animals' stories. Bib., ind. Copyright 2010 Horn Book Guide Reviews.

Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2010 #3
"Imagine driving across Baghdad, people shooting at you, a lot of traffic, all the sounds and signs of war around you, and a camel's head resting on your shoulder. It was almost too weird to believe." Deployed to Iraq in April 2003 as a civil affairs officer and assigned to archive items in the Iraq Museum, U.S. Army Captain William Sumner changed missions after it was discovered that animals, not art, needed his immediate attention. This moving photo essay reveals how Americans and Iraqis, with assistance from international animal welfare groups, worked together to rehabilitate and relocate zoo animals abandoned in their cages when the war began. Though numerous sidebars make for a slightly frenetic reading experience, a strong thread of emotion pulls together stories about a brown bear, blind and trapped without food or water; a pelican unable to move, tethered to a pole in the broiling sun; pet cheetahs starving in Uday Hussein's palace; and other creatures that would have died without their rescuers. Caring for the animals required creativity -- an orange tarp and sandbags became a dandy pelican pool -- and the efforts brought satisfying results. Today the reopened Baghdad Zoo provides sanctuary for animal inhabitants and human visitors alike. An extensive bibliography and an index are included. Copyright 2010 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2010 January #2
Loaded with reader appeal, these tales of animal rescue focus on the animals but also provide some insight into what Baghdad was like in the wake of the U.S. invasion. Basing her account on numerous interviews--notably with co-author Sumner, then a Captain in the U.S. Army 354th Civil Affairs Brigade, who led international efforts to recapture and safely house wild animals held in the city's zoos--Halls tracks multiple forays into devastated areas in search of creatures that were often starving, thirsty and trapped in hideous conditions. Each outing presented different challenges, from a bear given so much alcohol by drunken zookeepers that it was immune to anesthetic darts to more than a dozen hugely valuable Arabian racehorses held in a compound guarded by probably armed thieves. That's not to mention the difficulties of transport past snipers, providing medical care and finding proper food for pelicans, lions, camels and others. The narrative downplays violence in favor of success stories; that upbeat tone and the many bright, engaging color photos will leave younger audiences more pleased than disturbed. (source notes; introduction and epilogue by the co-author) (Nonfiction. 10-12) Copyright Kirkus 2010 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2010 January #2

This eye-opening tale of compassion and cooperation chronicles the mission of an international team of military personnel, zoo staffers, veterinarians, and relief workers to rescue neglected animals in Baghdad. Sumner, an army major who was deployed to Iraq in 2003 as a civil affairs officer, spearheaded the effort to round up the creatures from the heavily looted Baghdad Zoo, as well as a smaller nearby zoo and the abandoned palace of Saddam Hussein's son. The animals all found new homes at the main zoo, which was extensively renovated and reopened to the public ("the opening was a sign of hope, a glimpse of normal life"). The collaborators detail several remarkable rescues, including the recovery of 16 rare purebred Arabian horses that had been stolen and hidden in a racetrack's stables. Sidebars offering facts about various species, historical background, and Sumner's emotional commentary supplement Halls's (Dinosaur Parade) narrative, which doesn't sidestep the ever-present danger. Sobering and uplifting photographs--many taken by Sumner--underscore both the direness of the situation and the spirit of hope that drove the project. Ages 8-up. (Feb.)

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School Library Journal Reviews 2010 June

Gr 5-8--War means bombs falling, buildings destroyed, humans fleeing to safety if they can. But what of zoo animals locked in their cages? As then U.S. Army Captain William Sumner was horrified to discover, they die from lack of food and water, they are butchered for human consumption, and they are stolen by dealers in exotic animals. Or, like those described in this book, they have grittily clung to life in appalling conditions. Asked by a commander to "look at a 'small' zoo" (actually, one of the largest in the Middle East), Sumner discovered a large one, plus three smaller "palace" zoos, and a number of other menageries. Animals were starving, thirsty, and unkempt. Volunteers miraculously appeared; support arose; zoological societies, veterinarians, and international wildlife groups offered aid and advice; and Sumner and his recruits got to work. This book chronicles their efforts--and the rehabilitation--of some of the zoo's residents. Saedia, a nearly blind brown bear who had never felt grass under her feet; Lumpy the camel, starved and dehydrated; and Saddam's personal pet cheetahs are just some of the creatures that appear in these poignant stories. Many color photos, some especially crisp or moving, document the efforts. While the Baghdad Zoo is no sterling example of what a modern zoological park ought to be, it is a shining example of human efforts to provide care and comfort to abandoned animals and to offer a sort of sanctuary to Iraqi residents whose lives have been drastically disrupted. Inspiring, yes, and a tad disturbing, but an important social record.--Patricia Manning, formerly at Eastchester Public Library, NY

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