How One Little Cow at the Saint Louis Zoo is Teaching Kids Self-Confidence

In life, it’s inevitable – one’s head tends to be turned by the new and the exciting. At the Saint Louis Zoo, it’s no different. Families are flocking to see the baby lion cubs and get their hands on the visiting stingrays, perhaps not making time to visit the Zoo’s more established inhabitants. 

Well, not anymore!

Thanks to Bubbles the Dwarf Zebu, a new children’s book from Carolyn Mueller, an Emerson Children’s Zoo keeper and budding author, one unique Zoo resident is getting her turn to shine in the spotlight. 

The star behind the story

As a Zoo staff member, Mueller spends much of her time caring for and training animals year-round as well as hosting shows on the Children’s Zoo stage during the summer. Yet, this graduate of DePauw University’s creative writing program still had a love for great storytelling. 

While caring for Bubbles, the Zoo’s resident dwarf zebu, an ancient breed of cattle, Mueller soon found the perfect muse to mesh together her passion for writing and her appreciation of animals.

Even better, by introducing Bubbles and his friend, Xavier the goat, to young readers, she knew she could expand children’s appreciation of all the incredible animals that reside at the Zoo. This April, her dream became a reality with the launch of her first book, Bubbles the Dwarf Zebu.

Said Mueller via email, “Kids come to the Zoo looking for tigers and giraffes and sometimes pass up some of the wonderfully different animals that they may never have heard of before. After reading the book, some kids visit the Zoo specifically looking for Bubbles! My goal was to educate kids about a unique species while telling the tale of Bubbles’ and Xavier’s friendship.” 

Bubbles follows the journey of the little cow from India, where her strength is cherished, to the United States, where her dewlap and hump don’t exactly fit the image of the all-American cow. As she struggles to find a place where she’s accepted, she finally discovers a forever home and family at the Zoo and learns how special she truly is. 

In addition to introducing kids to the dwarf zebu species and its role in Indian culture, the book’s message of self-acceptance truly resonates with young children every time Mueller shares Bubbles’ story at the Zoo or at schools across the metro area. 

“I wanted to teach kids about diversity and acceptance. Kids live in a tough world. The whole message of Bubbles the Dwarf Zebu is that our differences are really what makes us so special after all. If one child is comforted by Bubbles’ fictional experiences and learns to accept her or himself and others, then the book will be a success.” 

On Thursday, June 7, Mueller will be reading Bubbles alongside the star herself at the Children’s Zoo Barn from 10:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. In addition, she will be signing books at Zootique in The Living World from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. To learn more about the book, find classroom companion curriculum, or request a presentation from Mueller at your school or organization, visit

By Nicole Plegge, Lifestyle Blogger for SmartParenting

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Metro East mom Nicole Plegge is the lifestyle and pop culture blogger for STL Parent. Besides working as a freelance writer & public relations specialist, and raising two daughters and a husband, Nicole's greatest achievements are finding her misplaced car keys each day and managing to leave the house in a stain-free shirt. Her biggest regret is never being accepted to the Eastland School for Girls. Follow Nicole on Twitter @STLWriterinIL 

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