Monday, September 22, 2014

Nonfiction Monday: What's new? The Zoo! A Zippy History of Zoos by Kathleen Krull, illustrated by Marcellus Hall

Every year, I get requests from teachers for books about zoos (and circuses, but that's a different discussion). It's really hard to find factual books about zoos for younger children and I was really excited when I started seeing reviews of this title.

It starts with a brief introduction to the concept of zoos and then jumps right into a trek through history, looking at zoos across the world from ancient times to the present. Readers will learn about an Aztec zoo in the 1500s which included "poisonous snakes with bells attached to their tails" and "a staff of nurses." Then there's the revolutionary zoo design introduced by Carl Hagenbeck in 1907, the classification system of Carl Linnaeus, the journey of a giraffe across 1827 Paris, the Alipore Zoological Garden in Kolkata, India, that was one of the first to breed rare animals in 1875, and many more interesting facts. The book ends with a cheerful list of the many reasons people have created zoos throughout history and finishes "Whatever your reason, visit a zoo today. Listen to the lions roar!" There is a list of sources appended.

There isn't a real narrative thread to this - it's interesting little historical blips about zoos. Although in some the author touches on more sensitive issues, like mistreatment of animals or changing attitudes about zoos, it's very age-appropriate and focuses on interesting animal anecdotes.

Sometimes I enjoy Hall's illustrations, sometimes I just can't take them. I have no idea what tips me either way or why, but I these tipped me towards the "enjoy" side. The bold colors and curvy lines give a humorous touch to the anecdotes and the animals have a friendly, human look while the humans are more background, their historical clothing outshining the bland expressions on their faces. There isn't a lot of detail in the pictures, but enough to interest a child while listening to the stories. I am disappointed that the belled snakes weren't pictured though...

Verdict: If you need more zoo books for younger kids, this is a good choice and it's definitely a unique look at zoos. Recommended.

ISBN: 9780545135719; Published 2014 by Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic; Borrowed from another library in my consortium; Added to the library's order wishlist


Ms. Yingling said...

This looks vaguely interesting, but my students tend not to read nonfiction picture books no matter how much I suggest them. Sigh.

Jennifer said...

Yeah, it's really more cartoonish - I wouldn't try it on any kids past 3rd grade at the most.