Overview A little girl's trip to the zoo becomes an extraordinary, imaginative, fun-filled adventure as her parents experience an alarming adventure of their own.
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Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 0.75" Width: 9.75" Height: 11.75" Weight: 0.95 lbs.
Release Date Mar 1, 2007
Publisher Kane/Miller Book Pub
ISBN 1933605286 ISBN13 9781933605289
Availability 0 units.
More About Suzy Lee
Suzy Lee's books have been published and exhibited worldwide. She wrote and illustrated The Black Bird, Mirror, La Revanche des Lapins, and Alice in Wonderland. Born in Seoul, Korea, she currently lives and works in Singapore.
The animals are the colors of the world Jul 19, 2008
The adults live in a grey world, one day a family visit the zoo and the girl sees the colors of an animal and follows him. Then the girl enters into the world of the animals and everything becomes in colors... it is a wonderful book!
An unexpected and rewarding adventure Mar 18, 2007
Suzy Lee's The Zoo is a picture book in which the words only tell a small part of the story. A young girl visits the zoo, apparently in Korea, with her parents. The text, a few words per page, gives a simple recounting of events. "We visited the aviary, and then the gorillas", etc. But behind the scenes, two parallel adventures occur.
The initial scenes are very detailed, and drawn mostly in shades of gray. The only comes from a peacock, wandering loose about the zoo. The animal cages seem oddly deserted, with the inhabitants not to be found. And then the little girl wanders off, following the peacock into a world of color.
Alternating pages show the increasingly frantic parents, still in gray, looking for their missing daughter. Meanwhile, the daughter plays with the animals, loose in some sort of idyllic forest scene. The scenes with the girl and the animals are clearly not real, but reflect every child's wish-fulfillment. Getting sprayed by an elephant. Sliding down the neck of a giraffe, into the waiting arms of a gorilla. Soaring with the birds. Smiling, playful animals everywhere you look. In the end, the relieved parents find the girl, fast asleep on a bench, dreaming about the animals.
Both sets of illustrations reward close study. The "real world" scenes are pencil sketches in muted colors, with, in a few cases, cut-out paper dolls apparently overlaid on the page. They are filled with realistic details, like the face mask worn by the balloon seller on the first page, and the spilled trash here and there on the ground inside the zoo. The people represent a wide spectrum of humanity, from snooty woman with backpack, to fighting young boys, to coy teenage girls, to parents with cameras, teacher with students, and smiling, pig-nosed sisters. Only our young heroine displays a splash of color in her cheeks.
The animal scenes, by contrast, are awash with color, deceptively crude colored pencil sketches of smiling animals. The trees in the background sometimes look like origami, made from brightly colored paper. The grass and sky bear the marks of heavy scribbling, to fill in the background. There's no strict adherence to the "right colors" either. The elephants are shaded with purple and green. The trees have orange, pink and purple branches. The bear is brown, overlaid with a touch of blue. The colored pages look, in short, like something that a kid (albeit a very talented kid) would draw.
The parallel tales are linked. As the parents run past the empty aviary, their daughter is flying through the sky with the birds. The animals are missing from all of the realistic scenes, as though, just perhaps, they might really be off visiting the girl's imagination.
This is a book for any child who loves animals, and thinks that zoos are paradise. It's also a book for any parent who has temporarily misplaced a child - the parents' fear is palpable (and, happily, relieved by the end of the story). All in all, it's an unexpected and rewarding adventure.
This book review was originally published on my blog, Jen Robinson's Book Page, on March 14, 2007.
Something tells me it's all happening at the zoo Feb 14, 2007
American publishers, by and large, move with the speed of pure, refined molasses when it comes to introducing U.S. audiences to foreign picture books. Considering the scads of remarkable books available all over the world, it's a crying shame that more than 95% of what we see on the American picture book market tends to be of the homegrown variety. Don't expect this situation to get better any time soon either. With cries proclaiming that picture books are no longer profitable, I wouldn't be any too surprised if publishers decide to play it "safe" for the next few years. Maybe that's why I like Kane/Miller so much. Far from limiting their scope, they do everything in their power to bring this country some eclectic, fun, and funny titles from a variety of different regions. Take Korea. You may have read a Korean picture book once or twice in your life. I myself am rather fond of, "While We Were Out" Ho Baek Lee (who is South Korean). But while we might be able to rustle up some Korean-American writers, books straight out of that general vicinity are not entirely common. "The Zoo", by Suzy Lee ends up all the sweeter then as a result. Not only is it a visually stimulating lark but it also happens to be one of the more creative picture books you're likely to get your hands on this coming season.
A child is going to the zoo with her mom and dad. Sadly, there isn't much to see in the uniformly empty cages. So as the older members of the family strain to catch even a glimpse of a bear on Bear Hill, the little girl follows a wayward peacock. Immediately the bird leads her to a multi-colored landscape where the child plays gleefully amongst watering holes, long-necked giraffes, and (in a burst of flight) even the sky itself. The parents are in a panic, but soon find their little one sleeping peacefully on one of the zoo's many benches. Was it real or just a dream? The answer is left to the reader. One thing everyone can agree on though, "I love the zoo. It's very exciting. Mom and Dad think so too."
The feel of the book took me back to my childhood. I lived during the heyday of foreign language children's programming, where animated shorts from all over the world would sometimes play on basic cable. Reading "The Zoo" is a similar experience. Everything in the book is easy to understand with a straightforward plot. Yet at the same time, it feels different from the roughly 2 billion based-in-Brooklyn storybooks currently out there. The signs are in Korean. The people are all Korean. The feel of the narrative, scope of the vision, and subject matter (which I doubt any American writer could get away with here) is foreign to our senses.
The cover says it all. You go to the zoo and what do you get a ton of? Empty cages. It's very interesting, but this book actually requires that you remove the dust jacket to get the whole story. Take off the dust jacket and the empty cage on the cover wraps around to reveal an escaping gorilla on the endpapers making good his escape. Turn to the back of the book and the gorilla is back in his cage tenderly holding a hot pink shoe. The shoe, actually, is a testament to Lee's playful sense of humor. Sharp-eyed readers will be able to detect the exact moment when the little girl's shoe falls and into what pair of hands it lands. Better still is the fact that she is not seen wearing a second shoe for half of the book, playing with the sense of what is real and what is make-believe here. Sadly, for all its cleverness and (dare I say) necessity, the cover may turn off potential purchasers. Empty cages that make a point are all well and good, but if a browsing patron isn't interested in reading the book through they may discount the drab gray packaging too soon.
As for the art, it balances the monochrome blue-gray dreariness of mundane everyday life with the sparkle, color, and flash of the animal kingdom. The first official two page spread shows the family entering the zoo, with the only visible color appearing on the girl's flushed cheeks and a peacock sitting high above. While the text reads off a seemingly mundane list of places visited, the girl and her peacock friend are easily identifiable by the splotches of bright shades and hues adorning them. You can also spot the girl via the bird-shaped balloon that hangs above her. That balloon goes on a kind of journey of its own, as it happens, and it's well worth rereading the book to discover where it goes. Lee never drops a single detail, and in the midst of raucous colors, fine drawing, and panache there's a current of realism beneath it all. When the parents discover that their daughter is missing, distraught doesn't even cover what they're feeling. She may be having a wonderful time with the animals, but reflected in the hippo's watering hole is the face of every parents' deepest fear.
Is it for all parents? Oh lordy begordy, no. Wish it were the case, but you're undoubtedly going to get a couple here and there that see this book as a story where it's okay to run away from your parents in a public space. Obviously, every child that reads this book isn't going to be instantly swept up in the notion of going walkabout on the next family outing would lead to adventure. Still, it's hard to brush the image of the girls' parents running as fast as possible through the empty zoo in a blind panic. Personally, I think the book identifies how wonderful freedom feels to a child. You're forever under someone's protection. How cool would it be then to transfer that protection to the wild and wacky animals in the zoo? Add in the amazing details, good storytelling, and smart art and there's very little left to gripe about.
Frankly, I see no reason why a person couldn't pair this book easily alongside Peggy Rathmann's, "Goodnight, Gorilla", for an entirely zoo-oriented bedtime series. There's a lot of sleeping and animalian mischief going on in both of these titles. "The Zoo" is going to be one of those books that catches on purely through word-of-mouth. As smart and funny as it is, American consumers will need to know about it from a reliable source before giving themselves over to its purchase. Trust me then when I tell you that this one's a keeper. Subtle without being so understated as to alienate its child readers, this book feels like a silent film where the narrator sits next to you, quietly telling you the story. Rare and wonderful.
Innovative art, a charming story Feb 8, 2007
I love Kane/Miller, a publishing house that specializes in reprinting foreign titles. I especially love discovering that parents overseas are as neurotic as myself. When I first had my son, my family dispensed such loving advice as, "try to remember where you put the baby."
So I had great empathy for the couple in this book, who are merely a backdrop to the little girl who narrates. It's really two stories: the girl's version, told in words, and the "reality" we see in clashing sets of pictures.
Lee uses colored pencils, graph paper and cut paper collage to give us the crowded zoo on a clear, autumn day. Everything's gray or slate, except for a lovely peacock in brilliant blues and purples. Uh-oh. Guess who's eye roves? The little girl's!
And our eye follows the stream of color too, throughout drawings with depth and perspective that nonetheless remain uncluttered and clear.
In the little girl's version, she's having a fun day looking at animals. In the gray reality, she's off chasing that bird, lurching into a rainbow-colored series of pencil sketches as the girl frolics with various animals. She's fully immersed in fantasy, or is she? Meanwhile, it takes gray, dull Daddy a couple pages to notice he's holding only a balloon where a little girl's hand should be. Whoops.
Lee then cuts back and forth between the two adventures: the girl's and her frantic parents. Been there, done that, had the heart attack. If this doesn't make you chuckle knowingly, you don't have kids.