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Can't all the animals just get along? Lucky for readers, no!
An initial double-page spread shows dozens of disgruntled animals—walrus and crab and monkey and camel and others—crammed too close and uttering expletives. Then, bouncy lyrics of the title song by Comden and Green (from the musical Do Re Mi) take over, comprising the entirety of the text. It begins, " 'Ouch! You're stepping on my pouch!' to the bear said the kangaroo." Elsewhere in the zoo, the elephant and the gnu are getting into it, the seal is swallowing kippers (after flapping his flippers) and the goose steps on the neck of the giraffe. "Let us out! Let us out!" becomes the repeated chorus that is interspersed between the depicted mishaps (verses). The porcupine steps on the chops of the wolf as the swine steps on his quills. Do the animals eventually escape? Yes; in a riot...of hues. Foster's ingenious illustrations feature antic cartoonish animals in an explosion of color against a background of gray lines wildly depicting other animals, for a 3-D, retro effect. A handful of pages have flaps with surprises underneath, a special treat for very young readers. And the lyrics of the Tony-winning duo scan perfectly. Green's widow, Phyllis Newman (of Broadway and TV-game-show fame) adds an appealing introduction and afterword.
Fresh and vintage at the same time; an accompanying CD would have made it perfect. (Picture book. 3-7)
Posted October 24, 2013
I Also Recommend:
Nearly a year ago, I received a digital review copy of this book from Blue Apple Books through the Edelweiss Above the Treeline program. Unfortunately, the file didn't work properly and when I tried to contact the publisher I did not get a reply. Alas, I couldn't review it, though I did talk about my wish that I COULD review it in blog post. Luckily, Travis Foster read it and so graciously offered to send me a copy so I could review it for real. So nice!
Even if the digital file had worked, I don't think it would have done the book justice. The hardcover edition has large lift out flaps with illustrations that are both bold and subtle at the same time. It's really best experienced as a print book. Actually one of my favourite things about the book is how the illustrations are done in layers, with shiny line drawings in the background to compliment the full-colour illustrations in the front. It adds to the feeling of the zoo animals being frantically crowded, without making the pictures appear messy or overwhelming. But that detail would have been lost in a digital edition, I think.
My daughter Magda enjoyed the illustrations and the words from the song lyrics (more on that later) but overall she found it a "sad book about a sad subject." I asked her why she thought it was so sad and she said, "Because the animals are being so mean to each other, stepping on each other's necks and tails, but it's because they're so crowded. If the zoo wasn't crowded the animals wouldn't be so unhappy. Did they not have bigger zoos for them? It's so sad!"
A Little Background:
Although the book made Magda a little sad, I think she got the point of the story. The song, "What's New at the Zoo?" is from the musical Do-Re-Mi (which you may remember as the original source of the song, "Make Someone Happy"). According to the afterword by Phyllis Newman (wife of late composer Adolph Green), the cramped conditions of the Central Park Zoo was the real inspiration for the song, and she was delighted when--decades later--the zoo was transformed into a more spacious and comfortable environment for the animal residents. It was changed in response to criticisms of the living conditions of zoo animals and changing attitudes toward zoos in general. While this specific song may not have been the catalyst for such shifts, it's nice to know that some of these changes have been made. And it's also nice to see a children's book that, while still fun and silly, encourages children to think critically about the way we treat animals in our care (an element that is often missing from the thousands and thousands of farm and zoo themed children's books).
You can read my full review on my blog, Cozy Little Book Journal.
Disclaimer: I received a digital galley of this book free from Blue Apple Books through Edelweiss (Above the Tree Line). I was asked to write an honest review, though not necessarily a favourable one. The opinions expressed are strictly my own. (I also received a print copy from the illustrator. Again I was under no obligation to write a favourable review, or any review at all, nor was I otherwise compensated for my time or opinions).
Posted January 4, 2013
No text was provided for this review.
Posted September 27, 2011
No text was provided for this review.