Monday, July 28, 2014

The Zoo Box

Author:  Ariel Cohn & Aron Nels Steinke
Genre:  Children

Three Stars

When Erika and Patrick's parents leave them home alone for the night, they head straight to the attic to explore. When they open a mysterious box, hundreds of animals come pouring out! Soon the town is awash in more and more zoo animals, until Erika and Patrick discover that the tables have been turned... and the animals now run a zoo full of humans!

With simple text and bright, graphic art, Ariel Cohn and Aron Neils Steinke have created a gentle, fantastical adventure for the very youngest of readers. The Zoo Box will be a terrific introduction to comics and both learning readers and their parents.


The book is exactly as stated above:  Erika and Patrick's parents leave them home alone while they go out for the evening.  The two children decide to explore in the attic, and discover a box that allows animals out and running off, much in a Jumanji style.  However, they follow the animals and find they are all going to a zoo; and the children, dressed in pajamas that look like animals, enter and discover that the zoo is peopled with humans.

I wasn't sure what to make of this book.  Admittedly, it is drawn rather cutely.  It also has a nice premise in bringing the human vs. animal zoo idea.  However, I found it disturbing on a couple of levels.

First, these are children.  The oldest cannot be more than 8.  Where is the babysitter?  They are obviously not old enough to be left alone, and I can see it now after someone reads it to their child:  "But mom, if they can be left alone, why can't I?"  Yes, I know they're only cartoons, but still...

Secondly is what I'm not sure of:  were the authors going for a 'wouldn't it be cute if there were a zoo that had humans instead of animals?' or: 'what if we show people that it's not nice to cage animals?'  Either scenario is disturbing.  The facts are this:  Zoos exist, and there's no way around it.  One can only hope that the animals are truly loved and well-treated.

It is a cute book in itself, but could give some children nightmares, in the fact that they might think they could be trapped into a zoo, and the ending itself is rather disturbing.  (Spoiler:  after the parents get home, they mention that the kids were good so they'll take them to the zoo tomorrow, and the kids are in bed staring at the ceiling after this remark.  Are they thinking the parents are bringing them to the zoo as exhibits?  Who knows?)

Anyway, basically okay, but if you have curious children, be prepared to answer questions.

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