About two years ago, I was lucky enough to read and talk about a sweet book about the ABCs called Not Yet Zebra, by Lou Kuenzler and illustrated by Julia Woolf. It’s about a little girl named Annie, who wants to paint pictures of all her animal friends in alphabetical order, and an impatient Zebra who just wants to get his portrait done NOW.
Flash-forward two years, and Lou and Julia are back with Calm Down, Zebra! It’s a book that talks colors, and managing one’s emotions. Annie and Zebra are back; this time, Annie asks her animal buddies to help her teach her baby brother, Joe, about his colors. Frog offers up the green paint, and Lion gets yellow; Black goes to cat, but wait! Polar Bear has PINK STRIPES? It turns out that Zebra is at it again, running loose with a paintbrush and a wicked sense of humor. Can Annie reign in Zebra – or will Zebra show Annie that it’s okay to let loose and have fun once in a while?
Calm Down, Zebra, by Lou Kuenzler/Illustrated by Julia Woolf, (Apr. 2020, Faber & Faber),
$16.95, ISBN: 978-0-571-35170-1
Calm Down Zebra is adorably funny and teaches some lovely lessons beyond colors and the animals who sport them. There’s a sweet message about imagination, and the need to explore the creative urge: maybe even color outside the lines once in a while. Zebra may look like a cheeky menace to Annie, but you’ll quickly see that he, like a toddler or a preschooler, is exploring his natural curiosity. Lou Kuenzler has given us delightful characters in Annie and Zebra, who parents and kids will recognize in themselves instantly (you try herding a group of children when one class clown is the attention draw). Julia Woolf’s illustrations are too much fun; bright and bold colors stand out against pale or stark white pages, and colorful paint splatters will get little fingers itching to pick up brushes and stick their fingers in paint puddles of their own. A spread where a peacock gets to spread his wings is stunning, with silver and gold foil adding to his illustriousness. An elephant’s posterior provides a broad canvas for Zebra and will get plenty of giggles.
An activity kit loaded with Annie’s black and white paintings let kids create their own colorful animal friends. Let loose your inner Zebras and download it!
I was so excited to work with Lou Kuenzler and Julia Woolf’s publicist, Becky Kraemer, to arrange for the author and illustrator to have a book talk, plus readings of both Zebra books, for my library system! I’m pasting it here for you to enjoy, and I’ll be taking the link down in mid-June. Thank you to Faber & Faber, Becky Kraemer and Cursive Communications & Marketing, and most of all, to Lou Kuenzler and Julia Woolf, for a wonderful storytime and Q&A.