The zoo comes to two unsuspecting children when they discover a magical, mysterious box.
Young Erika, perhaps 12, and her younger brother, Patrick, are about to enjoy a night home alone, when, while playing dress-up in the attic, they happen across a curious box. The box—a hatbox with zebra stripes—is clearly labeled “DO NOT OPEN.” Believing that it could be a birthday present or an old, beloved and forgotten toy, the pair disregard the label and tear into it. Imagine their surprise when a full-size ostrich bursts out, followed by an entire menagerie of zoo life. When Erika and Patrick decide to follow the animals, they find themselves in a strange, topsy-turvy zoo and must puzzle out how to get all the animals back into that tiny box. Told through wide, bright panels, this graphic-novel/picture-book hybrid will certainly conjure memories of Chris Van Allsburg’s Jumanji (1981), though Cohn and Steinke’s tale is much less dark and wraps up tidily, with just a shred of lingering unease. Though the story is obviously a fantasy, some readers may wonder why the parents would leave these two kids alone or why the animals would willingly and easily re-enter the box. However, sometimes it’s better to just enjoy the ride and leave all the details to the grown-ups.
A nimble offering for those not quite ready for Jumanji. (Picture book. 5-9)