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

4.4 out of 5 stars 137 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

"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
  • Lexile Measure: AD1000L (What's this?)
  • 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: 8.2 x 0.4 x 11.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (137 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #17,390 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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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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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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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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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I used to read this to my sister when she was younger. I have looked in stores off and on for a lot of years (not saying how many) for this particular Dr. Seuss book. When I received the book, I quickly opened the box and read the entire thing from cover to cover!!! It was all I had remembered and more. When I told my sister that I had gotten the book, she said she didn't remember me reading it to her. Kind of surprised me since she couldn't read but would go through the book and know what each page said. I will get together with her and read it to her again soon.

I was dissappointed my sister didn't remember the book, but not dissappointed in the book itself. Dr. Seuss never gets old, no matter how old you are!
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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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