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Saturday, September 20, 2014

The Way to the Zoo, written and illustrated by John Burningham.Candlewick Press, Random House. 2014. $18.00 ages 3 and up

"One night she brought
the penguins back.,
but they made a mess
splashing in the bathroom.

Then she came back with
a tiger and her cub."

 When teaching in early years classrooms in the early 1980s I loved to share would you rather?, Mr. Gumpy's Outing, Mr. Gumpy's Motor Car and Granpa. Since then, my students have loved Oi! Get Off Our Train, John Patrick Norman McHennessy, and Tug of War.  John Burningham has a way with creating books that are very special for young readers.

Today, if I were still teaching, I know they would want to hear this story on repeat! Since I am not, I will have to settle for reading it when I visit classrooms to share the joy to be found in books. It is vintage Burningham; and is sure to garner a host of new fans.

Is there a child alive who would not want to find a secret door in their bedroom? Then, imagine if that door were to lead straight to the zoo. When Sylvie makes that amazing discovery, she is dizzy with joy. She visits every single day. On each visit she chooses one animal to bring home with her. If they are small enough, they can share her bed. If not, other arrangements can be made. But, it's not just the sleeping arrangements that cause disruptions. Monkeys can be mischievous, penguins wet, and elephants can be...well, BIG!

All is well until Sylvie leaves the secret door open; the animals see it as an invitation to adventure! She returns from school to find them partying in the living room. Sure that she is going to be in big trouble with her mother, she shoos them back to the zoo and cleans up the mess...just in time!

The final line of the text will have listeners hooting when her mother greets her with: "looks as if you had the whole zoo in here!”

No discoveries are made by Mom, and Sylvie reserves a warm welcome for their continued nightly visits. Peace reigns, as is evident in each of the striking illustrations. Each of the visual images is sure to fill readers with laughter and the wonder of the imagination.

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