105 Ways to Give a Book

Thursday Three: To the Zoo

To continue the Summer Stories Series, today’s Thursday Three highlights books about the zoo — a popular place to visit in the long days of summer.

Pennies for Elephants
by Lita Judge

Pennies for ElephantsIn 1914 the children of Boston raised more than $6,000 to buy elephants for the Franklin Park Zoo. This is a fictional story of two of those children, and a lovely one at that. In a time when every penny mattered, children did chores, had fundraisers, sold lemonade, and donated their birthday money to buy elephants for their zoo. The Boston Post ran daily stories for three months and listed all donors in its pages. Beautiful illustrations take the reader into a time nearly a century ago, when things seemed simpler. Artistically rendered newspaper articles reinforce the history and reality of the day. As the children collect enough money, it’s a triumph that echoes through time. The message of personal responsibility and making a difference are shown, not lectured. The concept is inspirational, and is captured well in words and art in this magnificent book.

The Zoo I Drew
by Todd Doodler

With its unique fluted cover giving the book a tactile experience before you’ve even begun, it may be hard to get your child to stop running his hands over the surface so you can start reading. Okay, it was hard for me to open the book because I couldn’t get over the unusual cover. But once inside, we’re treated to a bright and bold trip through the alphabet and the zoo. The artist takes a few liberties along the way, but it’s well known that someone needs to name an animal species Xervies to save alphabet books everywhere. Each page tells a little bit about the featured animals in a casual way. Or that’s how I’d prefer to read the text, because it’s actually set up in rhyming pairs that often seemed forced in rhythm or in rhyme. If you don’t try to sing-song the text, the bits about different animals are fun and minimally educational. Kids will be transfixed by the pictures. (Note: libraries are going to have a hard time with this book because the cover is not going to keep its loveliness with check-outs and shelvings. Sorry.)

by Adam Rex

A trip to the zoo like no other is represented in this fantastic picture book. As a girl tours through the zoo, the animals call her over (“Pssst!”) and ask her for different things — a new tire, trash cans, and more. Each animal has an explanation for what they need, though the ending of the book presents a different idea. The humor in ingrained in every aspect of the book. In the sketched portions of the book, look for the clever signs (“I Am the Walrus, koo-koo-kachoo”) and offbeat artistic representations (a rhino rolling around in a huge hamster ball). As the girl converses with the animals, the pencil sketches are mixed with breathtaking painted illustrations with the drama building in art and story to the funny ending. This book has something for everyone and is one of my personal favorites.

(This post was previously published at PBS Booklights.)

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