Saving the Baghdad Zoo is an excellent book for upper elementary-age students but will be appealing to other ages too. This is the story of how zoo animals in Baghdad were rescued during the American invasion of Iraq and the efforts to provide a safe home for them as well as a recreation venue for Iraqi citizens. Because the subject matter here is set against a backdrop of war, violence, looting, and terrorism, I was concerned that this book might be too “heavy” for young children. Kelly Milner Halls find just the right balance of providing necessary information but not overwhelming children with images or descriptions that are too troubling. The war is explained in the first few pages, and then the story focuses on the rescue and rehabilitation efforts of American military personnel, American and Iraqi civilians, and animal rescue professionals.
Saving the Baghdad Zoo is nicely edited with many large pictures; sidebars with facts about various animal species; first-person narratives; maps and facts about Iraq, Baghdad, and other geographical and historical topics; manageable chapters; and an engaging base text that acknowledges but doesn’t dwell on the more graphic aspects of rescuing animals in the middle of a war zone.