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Zoo-Looking
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Best-selling author Mem Fox celebrates a special father-daughter day in this visually stunning picture bookSpend a day at the zoo. There's so much to see: the tiger with the stripes across its back, the panther with its coat of shiny black, the zebra whose tail goes whack!The rhythmic text by Mem Fox is filled with surprises and reflects all the playfulness and warmth found in family relationships. The texture and glowing colors of Candace Whitman's torn paper collages bring all the animals, exotic and familiar, to life.
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When Flora goes to the zoo with her father, the animals watch her as carefully as she watches them: "She looked at the penguin/ and the penguin looked back [and] she looked at the monkey/ as its baby got a smack." The pattern continues: various zoo animals "look back," and others are described in matching rhymes (the snake slithers through a crack, the panther's coat is black, the elephant lives next to a yak, etc.). Despite Fox's (Koala Lou) trademark rhythms, the text is limited by her reliance on a list of animals instead of a developed plot, and by the use of a single rhyme. Except for the minimal surprise at the end, when Flora's father is the one who "smiles back" at her, the text‘originally published in Australia in 1986‘often seems either forced or predictable. On the other hand, Whitman's (The Night Is Like an Animal) playful, brightly blurred collage and watercolor illustrations are full of suggestive shadows. Flora's wide-brimmed purple hat provides a clear reference point as the artist changes the angles from which the animals are viewed. The freshness and whimsy of the art revive this otherwise tired title. Ages 4-7. (June)

PreS-Gr 1‘Young Flora observes various creatures at the zoo, and to her amazement some of them return her gaze. Fox writes in comfortably repetitive rhyme that will instantly have young listeners chiming in: "She looked at the panther with its coat of silky black/ She looked at the tiger and the tiger looked back..." After a series of these inscrutable exchanges, she looks at her father "and he smiled back." Whitman's illustrations, collages made from thick paper torn into simple, fuzzy-edged shapes, make a good match, capturing both the plot's simplicity and Flora's delight at the animals, the sunny day, and being with her loving father. Originally published with different pictures in Australia in 1986.‘John Peters, New York Public Library

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