Reviews provided by Syndetics
Publishers Weekly Review
Browne ( Gorilla ; Willy the Wimp ) again exhibits his inimitable dry wit, describing a less than idyllic family outing to the zoo. The young narrator paints an amusingly bleak picture of the day's incidents: Dad blames him when he and his brother fight during the slow, traffic-clogged trip to the zoo; Dad and Mum insist on viewing the boring animals first; and it seems that lunch time will never arrive. Worse yet, through it all, their buffoonish father embarrasses them with his relentless antics and jokes. But a lunch of burgers, fries, beans and ice cream--and a stop at the gift shop--save the day. Browne's effectively stark, magnificently realistic illustrations of the zoo animals offer a distinct contrast to his clever renditions of the supposedly human visitors to the zoo, many of whom bear an uncanny resemblance to the creatures in the cages. Younger readers may not appreciate Browne's cunning comment on human nature, or the engaging irony of Mum's closing comment: ``I don't think the zoo really is for animals . . . I think it's for people.'' All ages. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
/*STARRED REVIEW*/ Gr. 2-6. Who's looking in through the bars of the zoo cages? And who's looking out? That is what Browne's asking when he takes us along with a boy, his younger brother, mother, and father on a visit to the zoo. It's the family dynamics, colorfully pictured on the left-hand pages above the text, that capture our attention first. Mum's drab and rather quiet; the boys look and act like monkeys, wrestling each other, impatient for food; and Dad is a boor, "really embarrassing" when he lies about his son's age, laughs at his own jokes, or pounds his chest. On opposite pages are zoo animals and settings rendered in extraordinary detail. Gradually we notice how cleverly the different paintings mesh: we see the boys' fight mirrored in the quarrels of baboons; recognize features of the father's flat broad face in the visage of the gorilla; and we suddenly realize that while zoo visitors in the background are wearing parkas and suits and sneakers, they also have flippers and tails. Browne is just as sly as ever. Here, as in Changes , he brings the surreal and the real together to give us a world transformed. This time, however, he challenges us to examine not only the things we take for granted, but also the way we are. (Reviewed Dec. 15, 1992)0679839461Stephanie Zvirin
Horn Book Review
An unsettling story of a boy's visit to the zoo presents a truthful and dark view of humanity's treatment of animals. The zoo inhabitants peer out of cages with expressions of boredom, fear, and sadness, while the human spectators yell and gesture in a grotesque, uncivilized fashion. Browne's familiar art is as intriguing as ever, but the single ray of hope -- the boy wonders later if animals dream -- may prove too small for most readers. From HORN BOOK 1993, (c) Copyright 2010. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Kirkus Book Review
From the author of Piggybook (1986), another powerful exploration of the family scene with a similar family of four: massive, boorish Dad, riding roughshod over everyone; quiet little Mum, a pained but helpless observer; the narrator and his younger brother, endlessly squabbling instead of looking at the caged animals they've come to see. The surreal touches here are minimal--the odd reptilian foot on a child or an animal head above a pin-striped suit suggest that humans, too, are animals- -but the extraordinary visual emphases are telling: a faraway elephant is blocked by a rail; a rhino is dwarfed by his glass- and-concrete enclosure; and while Dad looms, huge and belligerent, the gorilla he resembles looks back with a sad, far more intelligent gaze, and Mum and the quarreling boys are seen through bars, as if caged. The simple, childlike narration rings painfully true; the one note of hope is a query suggesting that the zoo visit has aroused curiosity, if not sensitivity: ``Do you think animals have dreams?'' It's a bleak portrait: these boys, as trapped in their family as the animals are in the zoo, are well on their way to growing up to be just like Dad. As usual, Browne's elegant, sharply satirical art is exquisitely designed and painted. A provocative look at the darker side of family dynamics. (Picture book. 4-10)