Though zoo-visit stories are popular with young readers, this trip isn’t so much fun.



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.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1483673578

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Xlibris

Review Posted Online: June 4, 2014

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The print version of a knee-slapping cumulative ditty.

In the song, Smith meets a donkey on the road. It is three-legged, and so a “wonky donkey” that, on further examination, has but one eye and so is a “winky wonky donkey” with a taste for country music and therefore a “honky-tonky winky wonky donkey,” and so on to a final characterization as a “spunky hanky-panky cranky stinky-dinky lanky honky-tonky winky wonky donkey.” A free musical recording (of this version, anyway—the author’s website hints at an adults-only version of the song) is available from the publisher and elsewhere online. Even though the book has no included soundtrack, the sly, high-spirited, eye patch–sporting donkey that grins, winks, farts, and clumps its way through the song on a prosthetic metal hoof in Cowley’s informal watercolors supplies comical visual flourishes for the silly wordplay. Look for ready guffaws from young audiences, whether read or sung, though those attuned to disability stereotypes may find themselves wincing instead or as well.

Hee haw. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: May 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-545-26124-1

Page Count: 26

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 29, 2018

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With Ivan’s movie out this year from Disney, expect great interest—it will be richly rewarded.

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Tiny, sassy Bob the dog, friend of The One and Only Ivan (2012), returns to tell his tale.

Wisecracking Bob, who is a little bit Chihuahua among other things, now lives with his girl, Julia, and her parents. Happily, her father works at Wildworld Zoological Park and Sanctuary, the zoo where Bob’s two best friends, Ivan the gorilla and Ruby the elephant, live, so Bob gets to visit and catch up with them regularly. Due to an early betrayal, Bob doesn’t trust humans (most humans are good only for their thumbs); he fears he’s going soft living with Julia, and he’s certain he is a Bad Dog—as in “not a good representative of my species.” On a visit to the zoo with a storm threatening, Bob accidentally falls into the gorilla enclosure just as a tornado strikes. So that’s what it’s like to fly. In the storm’s aftermath, Bob proves to everyone (and finally himself) that there is a big heart in that tiny chest…and a brave one too. With this companion, Applegate picks up where her Newbery Medal winner left off, and fans will be overjoyed to ride along in the head of lovable, self-deprecating Bob on his storm-tossed adventure. His wry doggy observations and attitude are pitch perfect (augmented by the canine glossary and Castelao’s picture dictionary of dog postures found in the frontmatter). Gorilla Ivan described Julia as having straight, black hair in the previous title, and Castelao's illustrations in that volume showed her as pale-skinned. (Finished art not available for review.)

With Ivan’s movie out this year from Disney, expect great interest—it will be richly rewarded. (afterword) (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-299131-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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