A warmhearted, encouraging book about the wonders of imagination.

THE PHANTASTIC ZOO

In this illustrated book for children, a brother and sister discover a special exhibit of magical beasts.

Mary and her little brother, Tim, are excited about their school’s field trip to the zoo. For the first time since their parents died, Tim is smiling; he’s hoping to see a dragon, although a friend informs him that dragons are only giant alligators. But alligators are interesting too, and Mary promises her sibling that he’ll see some. Then they find that the alligator tank is closed for repairs. Tim cries, but just then, a tall, strangely dressed man appears and introduces himself as Zitthoona, a magus and Keeper of the Phantastic Zoo. “Would you like to see a Dragon, Tim?” he asks. Playing his flute, the Keeper leads the kids through a hidden entrance. Giant plants, music, colors, and mysterious sensations surround them as they meet first a phoenix, then a mermaid, and then—most thrilling of all—an actual dragon. Each creature has a story to tell and a message for the kids about music, imagination, and protecting the environment. Back at home with their aunt Peggy, the children find a tree that becomes their special place to listen to “music magic.” The text urges readers to email the author for a coupon to download an accompanying digital audio album. Kaufman (The Adventures of Squiggle T. Buglet in the Musical Forest, 2014, etc.) gives children a fantastical experience with his collection of magical creatures who live in a place that’s more like a hotel than a zoo, the Keeper explains. The author presents it all in heightened language that helps build a sense of awe: “The air turned hot and cold as you walked…and in the darkness you could sense ancient powers…and things it was impossible for Mary and Tim to put words to.” The siblings’ affection for each other is sweetly depicted, as well. Kaufman’s faux naïve illustrations have the colorful, flat feeling of pale Matisse paintings, emphasizing the narrative’s air of strange adventure. However, the book’s punctuation becomes distracting with its many ellipses and exclamation points, random capitalization, and sometimes-missing commas.

A warmhearted, encouraging book about the wonders of imagination.

Pub Date: April 18, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9862098-4-0

Page Count: 74

Publisher: Three Dashes Publications

Review Posted Online: Aug. 15, 2017

Did you like this book?

ABIYOYO RETURNS

The seemingly ageless Seeger brings back his renowned giant for another go in a tuneful tale that, like the art, is a bit sketchy, but chockful of worthy messages. Faced with yearly floods and droughts since they’ve cut down all their trees, the townsfolk decide to build a dam—but the project is stymied by a boulder that is too huge to move. Call on Abiyoyo, suggests the granddaughter of the man with the magic wand, then just “Zoop Zoop” him away again. But the rock that Abiyoyo obligingly flings aside smashes the wand. How to avoid Abiyoyo’s destruction now? Sing the monster to sleep, then make it a peaceful, tree-planting member of the community, of course. Seeger sums it up in a postscript: “every community must learn to manage its giants.” Hays, who illustrated the original (1986), creates colorful, if unfinished-looking, scenes featuring a notably multicultural human cast and a towering Cubist fantasy of a giant. The song, based on a Xhosa lullaby, still has that hard-to-resist sing-along potential, and the themes of waging peace, collective action, and the benefits of sound ecological practices are presented in ways that children will both appreciate and enjoy. (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-689-83271-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2001

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A DOG NAMED SAM

A book that will make young dog-owners smile in recognition and confirm dogless readers' worst suspicions about the mayhem caused by pets, even winsome ones. Sam, who bears passing resemblance to an affable golden retriever, is praised for fetching the family newspaper, and goes on to fetch every other newspaper on the block. In the next story, only the children love Sam's swimming; he is yelled at by lifeguards and fishermen alike when he splashes through every watering hole he can find. Finally, there is woe to the entire family when Sam is bored and lonely for one long night. Boland has an essential message, captured in both both story and illustrations of this Easy-to-Read: Kids and dogs belong together, especially when it's a fun-loving canine like Sam. An appealing tale. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: April 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-8037-1530-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1996

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more