Little Women and Me: Lauren Baratz-Logsted
Perfect Soup: Lisa Moser & Ben Mantle

ZooZical: Judy Sierra and Marc Brown

Book: ZooZical
Author: Judy Sierra
Illustrator: Marc Brown
Pages: 40
Age Range: 3-8

ZooZical_webjacket-330-expZooZical, written by Judy Sierra and illustrated by Marc Brown, is pure fun. The zoo animals are bored and surly as winter weather keeps visitors away. But when a young hippo proposes that they work together to put on a ZooZical, well, the whole tone of the zoo (and the book) changes. There are cleverly altered versions of classic tunes ("If you're hoppy and you know it...", "for he's a jolly gorilla", etc.). There are "posters and costumes and scenery galore." There are seals on a bus, going round and round. And, of course, the whole thing brings the crowds rushing back for a "magical, musical ZooZical night."

Sierra uses rhyming couplets and triplets (is that the right word?) throughout, adding variation in line lengths to keep things from being sing-songy. She uses plenty of active verbs, and doesn't shy from the occasional advanced vocabulary word. Like this:

"It was simply amazing what two friends could do
When they tapped, and they rapped, and they twirled on their feet.
All the animals rocked to the hip-aroo beat,
And slowly, the doldrums began to retreat."

Can't you just imagine turning on some music, and telling your three-year-old that you want "the doldrums to retreat"? The actual performances of the animals are a nice mix of expected and unexpected. Like this:

"Bears walked the tightrope with elegant ease,
Flamingos whizzed by on the flying trapeze,
Raccoons danced in pairs, baboons danced in troops,
And snakes joined the dances as live hula hoops."

Marc Brown's illustrations were created using gouache on "gessoed wood", which apparently gives the surface more texture. All of the pictures look like they are on a faintly cross-hatched background. Brown uses a wide palette of colors, and offers up an assortment of busy, smiling animals on virtually every page. One wouldn't quite call the animals realistically rendered (the elephants have blue and purple striped ears and trunks, for instance, and the baboons look an awful lot like people). But they'll be recognizable to young kids (for the most part), and they exude joy. The young hippo who starts the whole things off is particularly charming.

ZooZical is upbeat and witty, a fun read-aloud for the preschool and early elementary school crowd. It would be a particularly good choice to read right before the class play. Recommended for ages 3 to 8.

Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers (@RandomHouseKids)
Publication Date: August 9, 2011
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher
Nominated for 2011 Cybils in Fiction Picture Books by: Maria Ciccone
Also reviewed by: rebeccareid

© 2011 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.