With more than 10,000 Zoological Gardens worldwide, people enjoy visiting them, over and over again. Often, a trip to a Zoo may be the only time that adults and children can observe wild animals in a real, and up close setting. For those who have never been to a Zoo, still, videos, YouTube, Iphones, and books qualify for a good second-best.
In fact, recently published, A DAY AT THE ZOO, is another Zoo fiction book for young children, a picture book written by Australians Cassie Roberts and illustrated by Judy Richards, that hales from publisher Adelaide Books. In rhyming sentences, the author tells about William and Rose’s day visit to the zoo–to go and see all the “tricks” that only the zoo animals do. A bold, bright, primary yellow dominates the backgrounds on both sides of the book’s pages, with text on the left and illustrations on the right. Artist Judy Richards’s childlike drawing style makes each animal look friendly, interesting, and fun.
Also, each of the five zoo animals–Cheeky Monkey, Elephant, Giraffe, Zebra, and Tiger- shows off a unique trick for William and Rose. Surprisingly, each animal performs its unusual trick in an unexpected way. The animals ask the children to try the tricks with them, to which the children politely refuse. The story opens with the two main characters, a boy, and a girl; but, as soon as they arrive at the zoo, the animals seem to take over the story, and the situation remains that way until the end. Additionally, another thing occurs in A DAY AT THE ZOO: children and animals speaking to each other. So? You may ask. That’s not unusual, right? No, not unusual at all. But, in writing for children, as in other creative writing genres, are “rules”. And here’s one you may or may not know: Children and animals do NOT talk to each other. Oh, wrong! You may interject. Hold on, and let me explain. In almost any set of rules, exceptions can are made. Do you agree? So, here’s the exception to this one, that Children and animals do NOT talk to each other, UNLESS the human-to-animal conversations are structured in a believable progression throughout the story. For examples, in WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE, the main character, Max, while alone in his bedroom, imagines. His imagination is the catalyst for believability between his world and the world of fantasy critters; and, in ALICE in WONDERLAND, the rabbit hole transports Alice into a place where conversation with imaginary animals is easily acceptable. So, when William and Rose arrive at the zoo, IMMEDIATELY the monkey talks to them, and they, to it. No catalyst there. But, even with the broken writing rule in A DAY AT THE ZOO, children will innocently accept and step into this fantasy of a talking zoo world. They will enjoy looking at the wild animals, at the tiny mice doing their own thing, and at the cake party at the end of the story. But, we adults? Perhaps we are the ones who need the “Max and Alice” ingredients in children’s literature. Who knows?