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The Zoo Hardcover – March 1, 2007

4.5 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 2–5—A pleasant family outing takes a surreal turn. A little girl begins, "I went to the zoo with my mom and dad," then lists the various animals they visit. The pictures, however, tell another story. Somber gray and dark-blue-toned illustrations depict humans looking into empty cages. The girl darts away, following a peacock into a colored landscape. As her frightened parents search for her, the child plays with an increasing assortment of vividly hued animals before she is found sleeping on a bench. She finishes, "I love the zoo. It's very exciting. Mom and Dad think so too." Lee's illustrations, a complex mix of pastels, pen and ink, and collage, are full of intriguing details. At the beginning, the child is grayish like the rest of the landscape. When she is with the animals, she is depicted in color. Even after she rejoins her parents, her cheeks, coat, and single boot are a bright pink. The cover and endpaper illustrations contain important elements that inform one's interpretation of the events. Before the story begins, readers see an empty monkey house and an ape leaving through a hole in the fence to join other beckoning animals. The back cover shows the animal back in the monkey house, admiring a small pink boot. This sophisticated picture book may be best appreciated by older readers who are willing to explore its complicated visual images.—Lucinda Snyder Whitehurst, St. Christopher's School, Richmond, VA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

"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...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." --The Thinking Mother

"...for any child who loves animals...or any parent who has temporarily misplaced a child...All in all, it's an unexpected and rewarding adventure." --Jen Robinson's Book Page

"Lee s pictures, both color and grisaille, are wonderfully detailed, patterned and angular, with much to look at with delight." --Kirkus Reviews
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 32 pages
  • Publisher: Kane/Miller Book Pub; Gift edition (March 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1933605286
  • ISBN-13: 978-1933605289
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 11.5 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #280,606 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
American publishers, by and large, move with the speed of pure, refined molasses when it comes to introducing U.S. audiences to foreign picture books. Considering the scads of remarkable books available all over the world, it's a crying shame that more than 95% of what we see on the American picture book market tends to be of the homegrown variety. Don't expect this situation to get better any time soon either. With cries proclaiming that picture books are no longer profitable, I wouldn't be any too surprised if publishers decide to play it "safe" for the next few years. Maybe that's why I like Kane/Miller so much. Far from limiting their scope, they do everything in their power to bring this country some eclectic, fun, and funny titles from a variety of different regions. Take Korea. You may have read a Korean picture book once or twice in your life. I myself am rather fond of, "While We Were Out" Ho Baek Lee (who is South Korean). But while we might be able to rustle up some Korean-American writers, books straight out of that general vicinity are not entirely common. "The Zoo", by Suzy Lee ends up all the sweeter then as a result. Not only is it a visually stimulating lark but it also happens to be one of the more creative picture books you're likely to get your hands on this coming season.

A child is going to the zoo with her mom and dad. Sadly, there isn't much to see in the uniformly empty cages. So as the older members of the family strain to catch even a glimpse of a bear on Bear Hill, the little girl follows a wayward peacock. Immediately the bird leads her to a multi-colored landscape where the child plays gleefully amongst watering holes, long-necked giraffes, and (in a burst of flight) even the sky itself.
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Format: Hardcover
I love Kane/Miller, a publishing house that specializes in reprinting foreign titles. I especially love discovering that parents overseas are as neurotic as myself. When I first had my son, my family dispensed such loving advice as, "try to remember where you put the baby."

So I had great empathy for the couple in this book, who are merely a backdrop to the little girl who narrates. It's really two stories: the girl's version, told in words, and the "reality" we see in clashing sets of pictures.

Lee uses colored pencils, graph paper and cut paper collage to give us the crowded zoo on a clear, autumn day. Everything's gray or slate, except for a lovely peacock in brilliant blues and purples. Uh-oh. Guess who's eye roves? The little girl's!

And our eye follows the stream of color too, throughout drawings with depth and perspective that nonetheless remain uncluttered and clear.

In the little girl's version, she's having a fun day looking at animals. In the gray reality, she's off chasing that bird, lurching into a rainbow-colored series of pencil sketches as the girl frolics with various animals. She's fully immersed in fantasy, or is she? Meanwhile, it takes gray, dull Daddy a couple pages to notice he's holding only a balloon where a little girl's hand should be. Whoops.

Lee then cuts back and forth between the two adventures: the girl's and her frantic parents. Been there, done that, had the heart attack. If this doesn't make you chuckle knowingly, you don't have kids.
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Format: Hardcover
Suzy Lee's The Zoo is a picture book in which the words only tell a small part of the story. A young girl visits the zoo, apparently in Korea, with her parents. The text, a few words per page, gives a simple recounting of events. "We visited the aviary, and then the gorillas", etc. But behind the scenes, two parallel adventures occur.

The initial scenes are very detailed, and drawn mostly in shades of gray. The only comes from a peacock, wandering loose about the zoo. The animal cages seem oddly deserted, with the inhabitants not to be found. And then the little girl wanders off, following the peacock into a world of color.

Alternating pages show the increasingly frantic parents, still in gray, looking for their missing daughter. Meanwhile, the daughter plays with the animals, loose in some sort of idyllic forest scene. The scenes with the girl and the animals are clearly not real, but reflect every child's wish-fulfillment. Getting sprayed by an elephant. Sliding down the neck of a giraffe, into the waiting arms of a gorilla. Soaring with the birds. Smiling, playful animals everywhere you look. In the end, the relieved parents find the girl, fast asleep on a bench, dreaming about the animals.

Both sets of illustrations reward close study. The "real world" scenes are pencil sketches in muted colors, with, in a few cases, cut-out paper dolls apparently overlaid on the page. They are filled with realistic details, like the face mask worn by the balloon seller on the first page, and the spilled trash here and there on the ground inside the zoo. The people represent a wide spectrum of humanity, from snooty woman with backpack, to fighting young boys, to coy teenage girls, to parents with cameras, teacher with students, and smiling, pig-nosed sisters.
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