In this shallow story, Carlos the chameleon is sure that he is the king of the zoo—and he always will be as long as someone believes in him.
In an opening spread featuring a game-board–like trail on which each of eight animal pens bear signs with crowns, an omniscient narrator asks “[W]ho’s king of the zoo?” Carlos, at the beginning of the trail, believes he is until he ventures into the zoo and sees the crown outside the kangaroos’ enclosure. His eyes bulge, and, echoing Eric Carle’s From Head to Toe (1997), he becomes hopping mad. When he finds a crown at the monkeys’ tree, he scratches his head; at the elephants’, he stomps his foot and so on. Angry and bewildered, Carlos shouts at each animal (in big type in speech bubbles), staking his claim. His obnoxious behavior is somewhat alleviated by the bright cartoon-style art, which depicts the animals looking on, perplexed, as Carlos exhausts himself. In a forced interlude, the chameleon experiences a range of clichéd emotions, turning green with envy and going yellow with fear—ruminations that only scratch the surface. The superficiality is reinforced by the conclusion. Carlos recovers when a visitor arrives at his window and claims, “He’s my favorite.” The stated lesson: He only needed one person to know “he ruled.”
Unfortunately, this mishmash of a tale ultimately disappoints. (Picture book. 3-6)