by Anthony Browne

Farrar, Straus and Giroux: 1992

24 pp.

Age: 6+

Interests: animals, zoos, animal welfare

Also by this author: Gorilla

A bickering family visits the zoo. The animals are not very entertaining but the snacks are good. In the end the mother observes that zoos aren’t for animals, they’re for people.

A thoughtful but depressing picture book about zoos. The loud, obnoxious father and misbehaving boys are a sharp contrast to the sad, brooding mother. She’s the only voice of reason, with her conviction that people are the real “animals”. Look closely at the crowd scenes to spot people with beaks, webbed feet, or tails. Human beings – the father being the prime alpha male example – are depicted as crass, selfish and embarrassing. In contrast the imprisoned animals are dignified and quietly heartbreaking. The full-page portrait of the gorilla, with his knowing, sad eyes is particularly moving.

The point about people and animals and zoos is presented visually, in a rather subtle way, but it’s so skilfully woven into every picture that children should “get it”. This is a book that becomes more powerful with subsequent readings, and careful inspection of the pictures.

A thought-provoking and moving anti-zoo book, a little depressing but a worthwhile read.

(This title available at amazon.com)


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. bundleofbooks
    Aug 06, 2012 @ 05:35:20

    Anthony Browne is the king of thoughtful picture books. I used to love Willy the Wimp when I was little and have more recently discovered Gorilla. Such brilliant books, although they do make me feel a bit sad every time!


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