A Letter from Author Judy Sierra
I think of my new book, ZooZical
, as a little kids’ Broadway musical. The idea came to me a few years ago, after my picture book The Sleepy Little Alphabet
was published. I couldn’t wait to read it aloud to the kindergarten classes at the school where my husband was principal. When the children saw the final illustration--twenty-six little letters asleep in twenty-six little beds--they burst out singing “The Alphabet Song.” What fun it would be, I thought, to write a picture book based on classic children’s songs! I knew who the cast and crew of my musical ZooZical
would be: the zoo animals from Wild About Books
, illustrated by Marc Brown.
“Let’s put on a show” is an old and very productive story line. I could picture so many scenes of animals performing. But what would their motivation be? I looked out my office window at gray skies. It had been raining for weeks on end. Might the animals be seeking a cure for the midwinter doldrums? If terrible weather was getting them down, then kids and families were probably staying home, too, and life at the zoo would be bleak without humorous humans to watch. Putting on a show could cheer up the animals, and also bring visitors back to the zoo.
I wrote ZooZical
in rhymed couplets and triplets, to a Seussian beat (anapestic tetrameter, mostly). I find this meter ideal for storytelling--so perfect, in fact, that it often conjures up parts of a tale as if by magic. As I brainstormed ZooZical
, two main characters--a very small hippo and a young kangaroo--hopped into the story, unannounced, as the main characters. They are clever and creative enough to come up with the idea of putting on a musical, and talented enough to play starring roles in the production. Other animals dance and sing to silly versions of old favorites like “Oh My Darling, Porcupine,” “The Seals on the Bus,” and “The Zoo Hokey Pokey.” Everyone discovers that music, creativity, friendship, and cooperation are tip-top antidotes for any sort of doldrums.
After many months of work and countless revisions, I emailed the ZooZical
manuscript to my editor at Knopf, Janet Schulman, and to the marvelous Marc Brown, who gave it two thumbs and six paintbrushes up. As I write this, Marc is sketching scenes for the third picture book in this series, set at the mythical Springfield Zoo.
Starred Review, PublishersWeekly, June 6, 2011:
"Teens have Glee, tweens have High School Musical, and with this snappy follow-up to Wild About Books younger siblings can delight in the joy of putting on a show...With humor and gusto, Brown's richly textured folk art–inspired pictures convey the characters' dramatic shift in moods and imbue them with abundant personality. Meanwhile, Sierra's riffs on familiar tunes guarantee that readings will be very musical affairs, with children enthusiastic participants."