Tuesday, January 09, 2007

My Book Review: The Zoo (Children’s Picture Book)

My Book Review: The Zoo (Children’s Picture Book)

Title: The Zoo
Author: Suzy Lee
Illustrator: Suzy Lee
Format: hard cover book
ISBN: 978-1-933605-28-9
Publisher: Kane/Miller
Originally published in: South Korea

“The Zoo” is a children’s picture book which Suzy Lee has written and illustrated. This book actually blew me away! This is the most integrated example of a story which is told more through the illustrations than in the actual text.

If you were to read the text of this book by itself (separate from the book itself) you might thing the story is boring, short, and nearly pointless, lacking a plot, lacking excitement and not worth reading. However the actual story is told MORE through the illustrations than in the text. The text itself is short and a low word count.

The story is about a mother and father who bring their daughter to the zoo. The girl gets lots, plays with the animals, and then is reunited with her parents. I know, that seems so simple if it is taken as the entire story, but it is not the entire story. (If you are wondering if this is a scary book due to the fact that the girl gets lost, don’t worry. There is no fear other than that of the parents. The little girl has the time of her life while she is lost.)

The story actually starts on the front cover’s illustration and continues to the first end papers, then continues on to the page where one would think the first official page of the book is. The story is told more through the illustrations than in words, and there are entire pages that are wordless. The story continues on the back cover’s end papers and ends on the illustrated back cover of the book.

The author’s use of color is very important to this story. The world of the humans is depicted in grey tones while the world of the animals is depicted in full color. In the book the girl turns from having just pink cheeks to joining the world of the animals and turning into full color. The girl plays with the animals in an imaginative and dreamlike way even flying like a bird! All the while the panicked parents are searching frantically to find their lost daughter (who is never in harms way as the animals are all friendly and loving toward her). In the end when the girl and her parents leave the zoo and return to the world of the humans the sad gorilla is left holding the little girl’s lost pink boot.

Actually at one point I was wondering if the part where the girl plays with the animals was imagined or dreamed while the girl sleeps (she is found napping on a park bench). However since we learn at the end that the gorilla has the boot in his hand and that he treasures it, I take that as a sign that this really did happen. Perhaps the flying part was imagined but at least some of the rest was real or the gorilla could not have found the boot! This is a fun imaginative, light-hearted story.

It is hard to describe what this story is like and to do it justice. This book provides a lot to look at and much to talk about in the illustrations. Children will love finding details in the illustrations such as looking at what all of the other zoo visitors, adults and children are doing in the illustrations.

The topic of getting lost and what to do is also something that is important for parents to speak to with their children and this book is a good way for parents to start speaking about that with children.

I hope that all parents will see the connection with the illustrations showing more of the story than the text and that they will point this out to the children if the children have not already figured it out. This could lead to a good discussion of the use of art in a children’s story and how it not only copies what the text is saying literally but how it can expand upon the story and sometimes such as with this book, not only enhance the enjoyment of the story but it can create and be a majority of the story itself.

Due to the simple story line and the short text, this story can be read aloud to the youngest of children (toddlers, aged one or two years old). However due to the more complex story that unfolds in the illustrations, this captivated the attention of my nine year old son!

This book is not only good for parents to read to children, it would also be good for teachers could also use this book in the classroom. This is a great book for a public library also as it could be enjoyed by the many children who use the library. With all that can be talked about with the illustrations it would also make a good read-aloud to a group of young children at public library story time’s, or at preschools or in elementary classrooms.

I hope that Suzy Lee continues to write and illustrate children’s books as I’d like to read more of her books to my children. I see she has written more books in her native South Korea and has already won awards there but I can only wish that Kane/Miller Book Publishers will translate more of her books into English so that our family can enjoy them. As of right now I can’t find any other children’s books by Suzy Lee published in English (what a shame).

Kane Miller is a children’s book publishing company located in the United States. They select children’s books from around the world and translate them into English and publish them for distribution in English speaking markets. They carefully select which books they will publish and they look for certain qualities in a book. For more information about what they look for in children’s books, you can read the information on their website which explains it better than I can.

Disclosure Statement: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of writing a review for my blog. If you purchase this book at Amazon by linking through from my blog I will receive a small commission from the sale.

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Linda said...

Great review. We're on the way to the library today and will look for this book!

christinemm said...

I just found out from the publisher that this book will be released in March 2007. My copy was apparently a pre-publication copy. If I had realized that I'd not have reviewed it until that time. Sorry!

Linda that does not mean that you cannot ask your library to purchase it when it comes out! Libraries usually have funds to spend on books that town citizens/patrons request.

Thanks for leaving a comment and I am glad you found the review useful.