Pros: Cute illustrations, funny poems.
Cons: Young readers might not get all punch lines - but the poems are still funny.
Zany Zoo is a well-chosen title for William Wises collection of short funny poems about animals. Though the book has nothing to do with a zoo, it does depict different animals cavorting in goofy situations, creating much humor.
Each poem in the book is about a different animal. The poem ends with a famous phrase or play on a word. Some examples of the punch lines:
Daisy the dog loves to eat watermelon shes a melon collie
Lambert the lion never tells the truth - so of course, hes lion
Sabrina the snake dumps an overbearing boyfriend and swears never to let another boa constrict her
Bradford the bat joyfully serves doughnuts, coming through with flying crullers
Olga the otter has enough kids to man a soccer team and lives in otter confusion
Basil, Betty, Bobbie, & Bill the bunnies scare off a fox by blowing garlic breath in his face they make a hares breath escape.
Had enough? Okay, but there are 25 in total, each with a corny but comic punch line.
Alliteration adds to the humor. All but a half-dozen of the animals names begin with the same sound as their species. The poems have different rhyming schemes, so each sounds different. Most have regular meter. All of this makes the book a great read-aloud choice.
Lynn Munsingers charming illustrations add much to the book. Her illustrations are funny. Pedro the Panda throws a samba dance for his panda friends. They are hysterical, dressed in sombreros, colorful jackets, and dresses. Hope the hyena, dressed in a pink tutu, poses as a lovely ballerina, complete with tiara.
I like Kevin the cool cat, whos a bit on the chunky side. Hes in a disco, in a white suit, striking a John Travolta pose when his pants rip. One of his feminine feline companions is horrified; the other has a snooty look on her face.
Another funny drawing shows Horace the horse in a dentists chair. On the wall is a chart showing a horses crooked teeth before treatment, and two rows of perfectly aligned white beauties after treatment.
The colors in the pictures are bright, yet not garish. As a matter of fact, most have a soft, cute, cuddly look about them. The animals are drawn with wonderful detail and a variety of facial expressions. Fur looks fluffy and soft, feathers appropriately ruffled, and skin adequately wrinkled when necessary.
Overall, the pictures are as much fun as the poems.
The targeted age group is 4 to 8. These funny poems and pictures fit those ages perfectly. However, the jokes that come from the play on words will be beyond many in that age group. Whether its worth taking the time to explain the joke is a personal choice, because the humor can still be successful without understanding.
An example of this is the last stanza of a poem about geese in a Shakespeare play:
But finally the performance was over,
And in the morning one critic did say,
After twenty-two years of reviewing,
Hed at last seen a truly fowl play!
For a child at the upper end of the age range, theres an opportunity to learn the sayings and explore vocabulary.
Zany Zoo presents some characteristics of animals, though there really is little factual educational value. Consider the example of the pandas, above. Nothing in the samba and sombrero party gives any indication that these animals are from China. On the other hand, it seems that the true objective is simply to paint a funny picture, and in that the author and illustrator succeed.
In the final analysis, this book is a delight and one that seems to tickle childrens funny bones. (Notice how I finished that with a well-known phrase a fitting ending, dont you agree?)
A Lean-N-Mean VI review!