Larry’s Letters From The Zoo (Grace McCourt)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Larry’s Letters From The Zoo, written by Grace McCourt and illustrated by Hayley Mayne, a look at one zookeeper’s tricky decision.

Larry the zookeeper is celebrating the zoo’s birthday by building a special, brand-new enclosure. When he’s finished, it’s perfect – but now Larry has to choose which animal shall live there. All the animals write Larry letters, describing why they want it: the elephant feels it should be hers, as she’s known Larry the longest; the giraffe thinks he should get it, as he is the tallest and can help guard the zoo. The anteater, the monkey, the snake – everyone pleads their case. So who will Larry choose?

I have some mixed feelings on this one. I was enjoying it through the beginning, which uses a structure similar to The Day The Crayons Quit. The animals’ hand-written letters, each with a unique font and character voice, are wonderfully paired with some charming illustrations to introduce an array of creatures. But the ending is… bold: once all of the animals’ arguments are made, the book asks which animal the reader would choose – then abruptly ends. The narrative itself offers no solution to Larry’s dilemma, and while I respect the approach of reader participation, to offer no hint of resolution leaves the story feeling a bit unfinished. This is especially true because some of the animals had excellent reason to want the new home (the mouse, for instance, was homeless), so leaving the story on a big question mark is kind of unsatisfying. However, it can also be argued that it allows young readers to write their own ending, and if this is the intent, I only wish clearer direction had been given in that regard. Overall, an excellent start but a rather shaky ending; still, for the wonderful art and entertaining animal voices, we’re still going to call this one Baby Bookworm approved.

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the author in exchange for an honest review.)

Zzzookeeper (Dr. John Hutton)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Zzzookeeper, written by Dr. John Hutton and illustrated by Doug Cenko, a fun bedtime romp about some mischievous zoo animals.

When the sun goes down and the zookeeper goes to sleep, that’s when the animals of the zoo get a chance to go a little wild. From the biggest crocodile to the smallest naked mole rat, nearly all the animals use their twilight hours to creep out and cut loose a bit. The big cats play in their ball pit, the birds in the aviary throw a rocking party, the manatees are having a birthday bash, and even the sloth and the slow loris get in on the fun. But when it’s time for everyone to settle down for their own nighttime snooze, the bedtime monitor Elephant is on the case. At last, even the rowdiest of the beasts is snuggled into bed – just in time to evade detection by the zookeeper.

Very cute! Between the bouncy rhymes and the delightfully energetic illustrations, this was a fun imagining of what zoo animals get up to after-hours. The activities chosen are fun and fanciful rather than truly mischievous, which makes staying up past bedtime – a common childhood transgression – the worst offense. There were a few text couplets that stumbled a bit in rhythm, and something about the way the elephants were drawn – trunk detached from their mouth – was slightly off-putting, but these were minor complaints. For the most part, this was a really enjoyable story that was a good length for bedtime and that JJ loved. Definitely Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

What Do They Do With All That Poo? (Jane Kurtz)

Hello, friends! Our book today is What Do They Do With All That Poo?, written by Jane Kurtz and illustrated by Allison Black, a wild and wonderful look at zoo animals’ poo.

There are lots and lots of animals at the zoo, and they have lots and lots to eat. And well, you know what comes next – they poo! There are as many types of poop as there are different animals: small and hard, big and stinky, even cube-shaped! But what do zoos do with all that manure? The answers just might surprise you!

Well, that is definitely a subject I haven’t seen in a picture book before, but honestly? It was really cool! The friendly, colorful illustrations keep things bright and innocuous, and the bouncy rhyming text is informative and entertaining. What’s great is the way the book destigmatizes scat, showing kids that science is everywhere, and offers some truly fascinating looks into zoo animals’ biology, their behavior, and the science of scat. JJ loved the adorable animals, and the length was great. The ending is a little abrupt, but I can see this being a fun read for young science and/or animals lovers, even a potty-training aide! Informative and unique, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by a representative of the author in exchange for an honest review.)

A Sick Day For Amos McGee (Philip C. Stead)

Hello, friends! Today’s book is A Sick Day For Amos McGee, written by Philip C. Stead and illustrated by Erin E. Stead, a perfectly charming tale of a zookeeper and his beloved animal friends.

Amos McGee starts every morning the same way: he wakes up, winds his clock, dresses in a freshly pressed uniform, eats his tea and oatmeal, then takes the bus to his job at the city zoo. There, he has a busy day, but he is always sure to make time for his very best animal friends. He plays chess with the elephant, races the tortoise (whom he always lets win), sits in comfortable quiet with the shy penguin, holds a handkerchief for the rhino with allergies, and reads a bedtime story to the owl (who is afraid of the dark). Every day is just the same, until the day that Amos wakes up with a terrible cold and must stay home. His animal friends begin to worry when he doesn’t show up for work, so they take the bus to his home, where they find him sick in bed and apologetic for not being able to care for them that day. Well, seeing that their loyal friend needs their help, the animals know what they must do, and proceed to care for Amos just the way he has cared for them – kindly, lovingly, and as true friends do.

This book is a sentimental favorite of many little bookworms and their parents, and it’s easy to see why. It’s a gentle tale with lovely illustrations that leaves you with a warm feeling in your heart. Amos and his animals’ tender friendship is wonderfully written, and each character is drawn with an element of realism that makes a fantastical story seem very real. The length is great, and JJ and I both really enjoyed it. A quietly sweet story that will leave you with a smile, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!

Stripes The Tiger (Jean Leroy & Bérengère Delaporte)

Hello, friends! Today’s book is Stripes The Tiger by Jean Leroy and Bérengère Delaporte, an amusing story about the odd personalities of cats both big and small.

Stripes is the fiercest hunter in the jungle – at least, he’d like to be. The truth is, he’s an ordinary house cat, but he has dreams of being a fearsome tiger. Not content to let his dreams be dreams, he causes havoc around his owner’s home: clawing the couch, attacking the dog, and destroying the kitchen. His owner reaches the breaking point, and packs Stripes into a crate to take him to the zoo, convinced that seeing a real tiger will cure Stripes of his delusions of grandeur. But little does he know that Stripes is excited to meet his idol, and Mr. Tiger has dreams of his own… 

This was a very cute, very funny story with a wonderful twist ending that made me grin. It captured the capricious nature of felines, be they housecats or big cats, and the resolution was unexpected yet satisfying. The illustrations are fun, and have some wonderful visual gags that match the humorous story. The length is perfect, and we definitely enjoyed this one! Baby Bookworm approved!