Fun and games in the Coliseum.
Captured and shipped from Africa with other animals to the big city, Julius Zebra is naively thrilled to discover that he’s headed for the circus. Juggling monkeys! Dogs riding horses! The reality—that he and his mates are headed not for the seats but the arena itself for gladiatorial slaughter—comes as a terrible shock. Instead of going meekly, Julius grabs a sword (readers may wonder how, but the author breezily ignores such cavils) and puts up so stout a defense that he wins over both the crowd and Emperor Hadrian himself. In a romp liberally endowed with scribbly line drawings and comical dialogue in balloons, Northfield puts his striped celebrity at the head of a diverse band of animal captives, including nerdy warthog Cornelius and Lucia, a vegetarian crocodile. They proceed through a series of abortive escape attempts and bruising but bloodless battles, including a re-enactment of the conquest of the Gauls. To give the manic proceedings a tinge of historical color, the author also tucks in real Latin place names and martial vocabulary, numbers the pages with Roman numerals, and helpfully appends both a glossary and a tutorial. Considering the setting, the situation, and the looming prospect of violent death, the nonexistent body count seems a bit of a stretch.
Readers will applaud the Monty Python–esque exploits of this hoofed hero. Just don’t call him a horse. (map) (Farce. 10-12)