Cubs in the Tub by Candace Fleming

Cubs in the Tub is a warm-hearted true story that will be irresistible to baby animal lovers.

Cubs in the Tub: the True Story of the Bronx Zoo’s First Woman Zookeeper by Candace Fleming, illustrations by Julie Downing. Holiday House (Neal Porter Books), 2020, 47 pages including notes.

Cubs in the Tub by Candace Fleming

Reading Level: Picture book, ages 4-8

Recommended for: ages 4-7

Helen Martini was a contented homemaker in the Bronx with only one wish: that she and her husband Fred could start a family. In spite of her hopes, no baby arrived. Until Fred came home from his job at the zoo with a lion cub. “Just do for him what you would do for a human baby,” advised Fred. So she did: first naming the cub, then feeding him, bathing him, burping him, and singing him to sleep. But of course, she couldn’t keep him. Helen was bereft until Henry brought home three sickly tiger cubs, who soon were healthy and rambunctious. But when their time came to leave, Helen was determined to go with them. That is, on her own she refurbished an unused storeroom into a baby animal nursery–the zoo’s first.

This gentle, irresistible story is told in warm, homey details and winning pastel-tinged illustrations. Animal lovers will eat it up, and mothers might find it heart-tugging as well.

Overall rating: 4 (out of 5)

  • Worldview/moral value: 3.5
  • Artistic/literary value: 4.5

Also at Redeemed Reader

Candace Fleming is well known for her young-adult nonfiction. See our reviews of The Rise and Fall of Charles Lindberg (starred) and The Family Romanov.

But this isn’t her first picture book–Honeybee: the Busy Life of Apis Mellifera came out earlier this year, and we liked it a lot!

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Cubs in the Tub by Candace Fleming


Janie is the VERY senior staff writer for Redeemed Reader, as well as a long-time contributor to WORLD Magazine and an author of nine books for children. The rest of the time she's long-distance smooching on her four grandchildren (not an easy task). She lives with her equally senior husband of almost-fifty years in the Ozarks of Missouri.

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