Posted in Animal Fiction, Graphic Novels, Humor, Tween Reads

The Stratford Zoo brings Shakespeare to younger readers!

Stratford ZooThe Stratford Zoo Midnight Revue Presents Macbeth, by Ian Lendler/illus. by Zack Giallongo (:01 First Second, Sept. 2014). $12.99, ISBN: 9781596439153

Recommended for ages 8-12

The Stratford Zoo looks your ordinary, everyday zoo – until the Zoo closes for business and the animals gather for some downtime. This particular evening, the Midnight Revue is putting on a play – Shakespeare’s Macbeth – with the lion, naturally, playing the part of the Dane King. What follows is an wildly funny graphic novel that offers younger readers the chance to enjoy the story of Macbeth, where Macbeth must eat the king, and where blood is replaced by ketchup (you can’t eat a king – or a host of people that stand in your way to the throne – without some kind of condiment, right?).

The story is just plain fun, with bits and pieces of Shakespeare thrown in for good effect. The play is presented, with an intermission when the zookeeper walks her rounds. There’s audience commentary and heckling. There are panels and splash pages, and the colors are bright and engaging. I loved this book, and can’t wait to get it on my shelves. It’s a great addition to any graphic novel collection, and for children’s service librarians like myself, a great way to expand our graphic novel sections. Using Shakespeare’s story, and including quotes and scenarios is perfect for teachers looking for a way to incorporate some fun into their Common Core ELA lesson plans.

I can’t wait to see what the Zoo manages for their next performance – but I’ll let you read to the end to find that one out.

Posted in Animal Fiction, Fantasy, Fiction, Uncategorized

Open The Zoo Box and great ready for an adventure!

zoo boxThe Zoo Box, by Ariel Cohn/illus. by Aron Nels Steinke. :01 First Second (2014), $17.99, ISBN: 9781626720527

Recommended for ages 6-10

When Patrick and Erika’s parents go out and leave them home alone, they discover a hidden box marked “DO NOT OPEN”. When they (naturally) open it, they unleash a magical zoo’s worth of animals, and follow them into a very different kind of zoo – but what happens when the animals figure out that the siblings are human? Get ready for an adventure!

In short, :01 First Second does it again – if I see their imprint on a book, I know I am in for a good read.

This book is adorable. Ariel Cohn constructs a sweet story with siblings who actually enjoy one another’s company and play together; they have an exciting adventure together, and they stick together through thick and thin. There’s no conflict! As a mother of 3 boys, I appreciate this so very much. Aron Nils Steinke provides wonderful, cartoon art with splashes of color and movement. I’ve enjoyed Mr. Steinke’s work in the past, including his webcomic, Mr. Wolf, that follows the misadventures of a wolf schoolteacher. It’s good for the same age group as The Zoo Box.

The Zoo Box is a 52-page book, making it a nice-sized read for younger audiences. The art is sequential in its pacing, allowing the youngest readers to learn about sequence. Talking about what could happen next would be great to marry the concept of sequence here; children can brainstorm, and then see right in front of them, how the scenarios play out. There’s humor, there are animals, and most importantly, there’s excitement and interest. The Zoo Box doesn’t hit shelves until September 2, but I can’t wait to see this on the shelves both in my home and my library. I may even have to build a program using this book for my elementary school-age patrons.

Posted in Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Book Review: Good Night, Gorilla, by Peggy Rathmann (Putnam, 1994 edition)

GoodnightGorilla1Recommended for ages 1-5

A zookeeper is followed home by all of the animals he thinks he’s locked up at the zoo for the night. The story begins with the zookeeper locking each of the animals’ cages for the night, wishing each of them a good night. He doesn’t realize that the gorilla has taken his keys and is leading a menagerie back to the zookeeper’s house! When his wife realizes that her house is full of animals, she leads them all back and goes home – but someone may have followed her back. The art appears to be watercolor, with bright colors against sparse white backgrounds. The endpapers lead readers into and out of the story, with the gorilla showing up and holding what we presume to be the zookeeper’s keys as he bounces around the book cover’s frame.

The book is sparsely worded, which makes for great interactive storytime potential as the leader can ask children things like, “What’s happening now?” “What do you think will happen next?” Each animal is identified as the zookeeper says good night, reinforcing different animal names for younger readers. Young audiences may also connect with the animals who resist both their bedtimes and being left in their rooms all night. The animals even have toys in their cages – a fun storytime task could involve asking the children to point out the toys in each animal’s cage. The book is also available as a board book, and would be good to have on hand for the littlest users to be able to see and enjoy.

This book could be part of either a zoo-focused read-aloud or a bedtime stories read-aloud. For a zoo-focused read-aloud, it would be great to bring in some toys – Fisher-Price’s Little People have zoo and animal sets that are easily washable and would be  great fun for little hands to play with and act out the story. There are Fisher-Price Little People school buses that could bring “students” on a school trip to the zoo! Decorating the storytime area with plush zoo animals, even small Beanie Babies, would add to the fun atmosphere. There are many fun fingerplays and songs that can be incorporated into the storytime as well.

Good Night, Gorilla has received numerous awards and accolades, including designation as an ALA Notable Children’s Book (1994); Bulletin Blue Ribbon (1994); Horn Book Fanfare Selection (1995); Parenting Magazine Best Children’s Book of 1994, and New York Public Library’s Children’s Books: 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing (1995).

The author’s webpage provides award and review information about Good Night, Gorilla and her other books.