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If I Ran the Zoo (Classic Seuss) Hardcover – October 12, 1950


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"It's a pretty good zoo," said young Gerald McGrew, "and the fellow who runs it seems proud of it, too." But if Gerald ran the zoo, the New Zoo, McGrew Zoo, he'd see to making a change or two: "So I'd open each cage. I'd unlock every pen, let the animals go, and start over again." And that's just what Gerald imagines, as he travels the world in this playfully illustrated Dr. Seuss classic (first published back in 1950), collecting all sorts of beasts "that you don't see every day." From the mountains of Zomba-ma-Tant to the blistering sands of the Desert of Zind, Gerald hunts down every animal imaginable ("I'll catch 'em in countries no one can spell, like the country of Motta-fa-Potta-fa-Pell"). Whether it's a scraggle-foot Mulligatawny or a wild-haired Iota (from "the far western part of south-east North Dakota"), Gerald amazes the world with his new and improved zoo: "This Zoo Keeper, New Keeper's simply astounding! He travels so far that you think he would drop! When do you suppose this young fellow will stop?"

But Gerald's weird and wonderful globe-trotting safari doesn't end a moment too soon: "young McGrew's made his mark. He's built a zoo better than Noah's whole Ark!" Some of the text and illustrations--imaginative as they are--are obviously dated, such as the following passage: "I'll hunt in the mountains of Zomba-ma-Tant/ With helpers who all wear their eyes at a slant,/ And capture a fine fluffy bird called the Bustard/ Who only eats custard with sauce made of mustard." And your children may be the first to recognize that attitudes have changed since the xenophobic '50s. But that doesn't mean this tale need be discarded; instead, it should be discussed. Ironically, Seuss was trying here--in his wild, explosive, and sometimes careless manner--to celebrate the joys of unconventionality and the bliss of liberation! (Ages 4 to 8)

From the Inside Flap

Illus. in color. "Young Gerald McGrew thinks of all sorts of unusual animals he'd have in a zoo. Dr. Seuss at his best."--Horn Book.  
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 5 - 9 years
  • Grade Level: Kindergarten - 4
  • Series: Classic Seuss
  • Hardcover: 64 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers; n edition (October 12, 1950)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0394800818
  • ISBN-13: 978-0394800813
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 0.4 x 11.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (76 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #10,812 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

"A person's a person, no matter how small," Theodor Seuss Geisel, a.k.a. Dr. Seuss, would say. "Children want the same things we want. To laugh, to be challenged, to be entertained and delighted."

Brilliant, playful, and always respectful of children, Dr. Seuss charmed his way into the consciousness of four generations of youngsters and parents. In the process, he helped millions of kids learn to read.

Dr. Seuss was born Theodor Geisel in Springfield, Massachusetts, on March 2, 1904. After graduating from Dartmouth College in 1925, he went to Oxford University, intending to acquire a doctorate in literature. At Oxford, Geisel met Helen Palmer, whom he wed in 1927. Upon his return to America later that year, Geisel published cartoons and humorous articles for Judge, the leading humor magazine in America at that time. His cartoons also appeared in major magazines such as Life, Vanity Fair, and Liberty. Geisel gained national exposure when he won an advertising contract for an insecticide called Flit. He coined the phrase, "Quick, Henry, the Flit!" which became a popular expression.

Geisel published his first children's book, And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, in 1937, after 27 publishers rejected it.

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize in 1984, an Academy Award, three Emmy Awards, three Grammy Awards, and three Caldecott Honors, Geisel wrote and illustrated 44 books. While Theodor Geisel died on September 24, 1991, Dr. Seuss lives on, inspiring generations of children of all ages to explore the joys of reading.

Amazon Author Rankbeta 

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#38 Overall (See top 100 authors)
#37 in Books
#37 in Books

Customer Reviews

I have read this book to my children may times.
ruckerlady
I had never heard of this Dr. Seuss book until someone bought it for my son.
L. Allen
This book is full of fun rhymes and a great underlying story.
Shell6a

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 6, 1998
Format: Hardcover
Young children will love this foray into a child's imagination as he imagines the wonderful creatures that he would bring into the zoo if he could only be allowed to run it. Anyone familiar with Dr. Seuss will not be surprised at the fantastical creatures which populate the imaginary zoo and delight young readers. Some children may be confused, however, when at the end of the book the child reverts to reality and his spectator role, sadly watching a pedestrian zoo run by a plump, adult zookeeper.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Alyssa A. Lappen TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 16, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Let's face it. The world has changed a lot since the prolific genius Suess (aka Theodore S. Geisel) penned this classic tale in 1950. The expanse of time, however, has not rendered this rhymed story any less fun for the younger set than it was then.

True enough, young Gerald McGrew complains that the lions and tigers in a pretty good zoo are "awfully old-fashioned"---before dreaming about catching new ones in an equally old-fashioned way.

But most readers---in fact, all but the biggest of stuffed shirts---will quickly forget the politically incorrect aspects of the cages and trap-doodles McGrew imagines taking to the wild mountains of Zomba-ma-Tant and Tobsk, not to mention Motta-fa-Potta-fa-Pell and Hippo-no-Hungus. The machines are pretty amusing--including the Skeegle-mobile, the Bad-Animal-Catching-Machine and the Cooker-mobile.

Travelers through these pages also encounter the gol-darndest lion, with ten feet; topknot hens, an Elephant-Cat, a Gusset, a Gherkin, a Gasket, a Tufted Mazurka, a Nerkle, a Nerd, a Bippo-no-Bungus---the list goes on and on---and a Seersucker too (get it?).

If he ran the zoo, Gerald would make a few changes, that's just what he'd do. But changes to this book would totally destroy it. `What this zoo must be worth!" Gerald imagines crowds cheering. "It's the gol-darndest zoo/ On the face of the earth!"

Got that right, young master Gerald.

---Alyssa A. Lappen
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 4, 2001
Format: Hardcover
In "review" of the current online reviews - y'all just don't get it. Dr. Suess' books are about using ones imagination, not just the environment (which y'all seem to take literally), but how we treat, and take life (ALL life) in general on a day to day basis. Relate the "animals" in "If I Ran the Zoo" or "If I Ran the Circus" to someone you know (or read about). Learn from them. Enjoy.
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 13, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I first read this children's book when I was much, much younger. And, I still enjoy it. It is about a boy who, if he ran the zoo, would replace all the animals with very unusual species, all of them quite fanciful and imaginative. This book is another illustration of how much the author loved children's imagination and how important it is to develop that imagination. The book was a 1951 Caldecott Honor book (i.e., a runner-up to the Medal winner) for best illustration in a children's book.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A techno geek on January 18, 2014
Format: Hardcover
This is another great whimsical Dr. Seuss story, except that in a few place Dr. Seuss indulges in the temptation to draw upon the stable fanciful of racial and ethnic caricatures in American culture to add humans to the menagerie of odd creatures here. If you are of Asian, African, Russian, or Iranian descent, you might feel offended at these depictions. If I were a school librarian, I might re-catalog these out of the children's section, into a "mass culture examples of ethnic stereotypes" section, if such a category exists.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 18, 1999
Format: Hardcover
"If I Ran the Zoo" is my absolutely favorite book by Dr. Seuss! This book is an instant childhood classic. I cannot remember how many times I begged my grandmother to read it to me. By far one of the Doctor's most imaginative stories.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By HuntleyMC on June 13, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a really imaginative great book. I think kids would really enjoy reading it and looking at the crazy traditional Dr. Seuss drawings. Be warned that this book was written in 1950s and things that were acceptable then are not necessarily politically correct today. How he describes some ethnicities in this book could be considered racist.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Bunny B on July 7, 2014
Format: Hardcover
As others have mentioned, this book is racist. I also did not like the gun imagery and phrases suggesting the killing of animals. Most Dr Seuss books are pure classics, but this one is in desperate need of a timely update.
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