Comic Solutions

Book Review: The Zoo Box

9781626720527The Zoo Box
By Ariel Cohn, illustrations by Aron Nels Steinke
First Second
September 2014

Erika and Patrick’s parents are off for an evening fun, and if the kids behave they’ll get to go to the zoo tomorrow! First though, Erika and Patrick decide to have a bit of fun dressing up in animals costumes and exploring the attic. And what to their wandering and playful eyes appear? But a box that says “do not open” which tempts them to draw ever closer. And upon opening the box, that says “do not open” an entire menagerie of animals appears! They follow the animals and to a zoo, where they discover the humans are the exhibits! What will they ever do, when the animals say boo?

This is one of those books that you pick up and you can’t help remembering back to your own childhood and reading books like Jumanji or Where the Wild Things Are for the very first time. Books where children become part of the wild creature rumpus and everything is toppsy turvy. Wife and husband team Ariel Cohn and Aron Nels Steinke, have created a fun and enjoyable story, one that all ages can enjoy and think…what would you do if zoo animals were chasing after you? And while there isn’t much “text,” there is a lot happening in the story in the wordless panels and in the gutter space and none of that happens by accident. Ariel does a great job of communicating to the reader with no words Erika and Patrick’s adventure following the animals to and around the zoo, and then running back home, just ahead of them to escape. It isn’t an easy thing to do, but Ariel’s writing pulls it off well.

Aron’s illustrations are simple and whimsical in nature that capture the lively moment of Erika and Patrick, and the animals they encounter. Some of my favorite scenes are of Erika and Patrick running up the stairs in the movement we often see young children running at, full limb and lose, thump, thump, thumping up the stairs. Even better is that the Erika and Patrick, while distinct characters in their own right, are drawn in such a way its easy for any kid to put themselves in their place. The home and other settings are familiar as well, helping to create a book and story that is easy to slip into. When we see the home it isn’t a perfect “picture book” home. It has a crooked picture on the wall, a softly glowing lamp with a titled light shade, and a book lying on the floor, spine up of course, waiting to be read.

If you’ve read some of the other reviews, just stop. This is a fun and enjoyable kids book. It is something that is meant to be read, shared, treasured, and read again and again. Remember what it was like reading Jumanji or Where the Wild Things Are, and let this be that type of book for a new reader. Enjoy the adventure and wonder what you would do if animals said boo to you. Four out of five stars and recommended for all ages.

ARC provided by Gina at First Second

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