I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.The Zoo Box by Ariel Cohn
Illustrator: Aron Nels Steinke
Published by First Second on Published July 15th 2014
Genres: Childrens', Graphic Novel, Innocuous
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When Erika and Patrick's parents leave them home alone for the night, they head straight to the attic to explore. When they open a mysterious box, hundreds of animals come pouring out! Soon the town is awash in more and more zoo animals, until Erika and Patrick discover that the tables have been turned... and the animals now run a zoo full of humans!
The Zoo Box by Ariel Cohn and Aron Nels Steinke is one that tries to marry old classics such as Jumanji (if one can consider it a classic) and Where the Wild Things Are and does not quite succeed. When Erika and Patrick’s parents go out for the night, they leave Erika in charge of her younger brother. She takes Patrick up the attic where they find animal suits and put them on. They also find a box from which, impossibly, animals emerge. The animals, reminiscent of Orwell’s Animal Farm reverse the circumstances and put unsuspecting humans in cages while they go around, popcorn in hand, observing the humans.
I am not a fan of this art style and this affected my reading experience substantially. I found the art to be unsophisticated, especially since I had just finished Hatke’s book intended for the same audience. I found the writing to be overly simplistic and lacking the dips and leaps that usually characterize the language used in a picturebook. In other words, reading this aloud is not fun at all. There is very little life to the language.
Then there is the gender stereotype. Patrick is always the one having the ideas while Erika is shoved into the caring position – which is understandable as she is the older sister. However, she is often the one drawn with tears in her eyes while Patrick is usually evincing excitement. The story does redeem itself, slightly, later on but by then the damage was done. For me, anyway.
I didn’t enjoy this title as much as I had expected to, but perhaps that is because the book is strictly for younger audiences who will experience it in a different, more vivid way, than I did. It just may be that being an adult spoiled the experience for me as I can’t help but analyze everything I read. All I can say is that while The Zoo Box does not have crossover appeal, it may be a hit with animal loving children.
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