Tuesday, August 11, 2015

The Way to the Zoo by John Burningham

Sometimes I love John Burningham and sometimes I really, really don't. This latest book, however, takes me back to the magic of his earlier books, especially Mr. Gumpy. It perfectly captures the magic of imagination and childhood.

One night Sylvie imagines there's a door in the wall. When she checks the next evening, she finds the door is really there. She opens it, goes through the passageway she discovers and finds a heavy door that leads to....the zoo! However, it's getting late. Sylvie has to go back to bed and, naturally, she asks if anyone would like to go with her. The story progresses through her nightly visitors, some of whom make better roommates than others. But what will happen when Sylvie leaves the door open one morning before leaving for school?

With some of Burningham's recent books, his art seems to have moved farther and farther away from the strictly representational. In this book, he returns to the simpler, clearer illustration style of his earlier works. Sylvie is a thoughtful little girl in a school uniform or pajamas. The animals have Burningham's distinct elongated, sketchy style, but are still clearly identifiable. Sylvia stands alone, a simple figure in white space, as the animals enter her world, finally exploding in a chaotic scene that ends with a mischievous punch line.

Verdict: This is a little long for storytime, and the more subtle humor may not capture the interest of younger children, but if you have an older audience it will be perfect. It would also make a great read-aloud to an imaginative child, or anyone who likes animals. Recommended.

ISBN: 9780763673178; Published 2014 by Candlewick; Borrowed from another library in my consortion; Added to the library's backlist

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