Mark Carthew (text), Anil Tortop (illus.), The Great Zoo Hullabaloo, New Frontier, 1 May 2017, 32pp., $24.99 (hbk), ISBN: 9781925059786
Jess and Jack run a zoo, but one morning they arrive to find it completely empty! What follows is an adventure to find the animals, following scats and tracks at first, and then musical sounds and flashing lights, until Jack and Jess find their entire zoo making a great hullabaloo!
Readers will relish Carthew’s playful use of language, not only the fun-to-read rhymes, but also the breadth of vocabulary used. Words such as fidgety, roaming and rascally reveal Carthew’s confident and self-assured use of language, and his belief in his readers. In addition, the animals mentioned aren’t your go-to lions and zebras, but rather meerkats and macaws and nightjars. The Grade 1 and 2 audience I shared this book with delighted in noticing the onomatopoeia in phrases such as ‘flurry of feathers’ and ‘scooping up scats’. Incidentally, they also loved discussing the meaning of the word scat!
Tortop’s illustrations add another layer of charm to this already charming book. The endpapers are a fascinating study in footprints, the characters are endearing, and the animals full of movement. Her real strength, however, lies in the way she uses different viewpoints and different light sources to attract and engage the reader. Our view shifts from birds-eye (how appropriate!), to down below, from close-up to long shot. The light of the fire and the birthday candle seem to really radiate warmth off the page.
Teachers could use this book to teach vocabulary and figurative language such as onomatopoeia. It could also be used in a biology unit to discuss and investigate the different, often less written about animals, such as the mole or the hare. It can also be used to teach students to predict and infer, given the mystery element of the story.
Reviewed by Madeleine Crofts