Four chapters using easy sight words make this misadventure at the “famous cageless zoo” created by Michalak and Remkiewicz a good choice for beginning readers who are ready to tackle more complex text.
Joe the giraffe wants to throw a birthday party—for his pet worm, Wiggy. Bighearted Joe is also clumsy, self-centered, and possibly delusional. Sparky, his more-sensible turtle buddy, doesn’t believe Wiggy is real. Sparky asks repeatedly when he will meet Wiggy and suggests that the party is really for Joe, not Wiggy. Generously leaded text broken up with color illustrations on each spread lighten the rather dense text. The pictures add detail and contribute to the slapstick humor (not one but two smashed birthday cakes and animals unsuccessfully dancing in a conga line). The word “underpants” (part of Joe’s intended gift for Wiggy) always guarantees a laugh. Kids like being in on a joke, but unfortunately most of the more subtle humor will go right over their heads. Gen-alpha readers will not understand references to the Beatles or trips to Vegas, though they may recognize Sparky’s somewhat parental asides. No matter—the adults who get to listen to them read the book aloud will be entertained.
Share this gentle story of fantasy, patience, and tolerance with new readers learning how to be true friends. (Early reader. 5-9)