Tysoe (Farmer John’s Farm, 2013, etc.), in his latest picture book, introduces concepts of conservation through a class trip to the zoo.
At the zoo, a bold boy named Ben and his classmates visit elephants, lions, monkeys, hippos and other animals. Ben, who encourages his friends to be brave enough for the camel ride, gets himself into a bit of trouble in the bird house when a macaw gets tangled in his hair. As the day wears on and the children get tired, the book packs in animal facts, groupinginformation about giraffes, gorillas, rhinos and bears all on the same page. A final visit to the tigers—which includes a tactless joke about a child in a “push chair” (the image features a stroller, but the text implies a wheelchair) being “meals on wheels”—concludes the class trip. Throughout, the zookeepers and narrator offer science facts about the animals and explain conservation efforts needed to protect animals in the wild. But while most children will eagerly page through the images, the lengthy, awkward prose may thwart independent readers. The odd phrasing may stump parents reading to lap children as well: “Great chunks of meat were thrown to the lions who pounced on them roaring.” While the animals in the images are eye-catching, the children aren’t consistently drawn; sometimes they look quite young, which would reflect the text, but in one image, Ben appears middle-aged.Though sometimes strangely drawn, the humans are a diverse cast. The cover image, however, features two entirely different styles of art.
Though zoo-visit stories are popular with young readers, this trip isn’t so much fun.