Tag Archive | zoos

Just Another Morning, by Linda Ashman

Just Another Morning, by Linda Ashman

“The day begins as many do:
I find myself inside a zoo.”

There’s really two stories in “Just Another Morning,” but they’re both a lot of fun. A little boy wakes up in his bed – surrounded by his favorite stuffed animals – but he imagines that he’s waking up inside a zoo. And then he has to tiptoe past the sleeping giants (his parents), down “a mountain long and steep” (his staircase). His imaginary story is very exciting, filled with lots of dangerous adventures, but the illustrations make sure that everything stays cute. Illustrator Claudio Muñoz uses soft colors and big, round shapes, so the imaginary story looks more like a cartoon drawn with a crayon!

“Behind a door, I find a feast
and share it with a hairy beast.”

The “beast” is the family dog, and the feast comes from the tasty snacks in the refrigerator. There’s a green monster in the closet – the family vacuum cleaner – and then the boy builds a castle out of chairs. Unfortunately, soon the “giants” are awake, appearing angry as they burst through the door into the kitchen. The boy rushes into the garden, where he plays with “a spitting snake”:  the garden hose.

It’s fun to imagine how this book got written. Linda Ashman composed the poem, but presumably she also knew what the illustrator would be drawing. This might be a good book for younger readers, because the pictures and the illustrations always have a real connection. Of course, it might confuse the youngest readers, if they take the text too literally!

“I join a traveling circus troupe,
teach a clown to hula-hoop,
train a monkey, tame a cat,
tumble like an acrobat.”

This is one of the trickiest drawings in the book because now the little boy is lost in his imagination. But the monkey looks like the stuffed monkey he’d imagined at the zoo, and the “clown” is just the family dog again, wearing a party hat. There appears to be a real cat in the drawing, but it’s just staring dubiously at a dangling hoop. And then suddenly the “giant” reappears and scoops up the boy. “I can’t break free,” he says; though, in the illustration, it’s the boy’s father who’s smiling gently. The boy ends up taking a nap in his room, and in a funny twist, the book ends exactly where it begins.

“The hours pass. When I come to,
I find myself inside a zoo…”

Gator, by Randy Cecil

Gator, by Randy Cecil

Gator is a brightly-painted wooden alligator, posed with a smile on the children’s carousel. “He loved the flashing lights,” writes Randy Cecil in Gator, along with “the sound of the calliope, and the feeling of wind on his face.” Unfortunately, the crowds grow smaller at the amusement park, and eventually the rides stop running, and the lights go dark. “The laughter was gone,” writes Cecil, and the book takes a dramatic turn. One day the wooden alligator “touched the hole in his heart where the pole had been, and looked over the empty park…where he had spent his entire life.

“It was time to leave.”

Randy Cecil also drew the book’s soft oil illustrations, and they give the book a strange grandeur. There’s a few quirky drawing of skinny children with big heads, but the rest of the book is about the carousel alligator, and how he ends up meeting some real animals at a zoo.  They seem just as unreal, thanks to Cecil’s eccentric sketches. The text takes some dramatic turns, but Cecil keeps it light with some funny drawings.

Before he can get to the zoo, the alligator has to wander through a hazy brown forest, and “A cold wind blew through the hole in Gator’s heart.” His best friend on the carousel was a giant wooden duck, so he’s surprised when he crosses an arching stone bridge, and sees real ducks swimming in the stream. He’s attracted to the zoo by the sound of the children laughing, and thinks it must be some kind of amusement park. “But where were the flashing lights?” Gator wonders.

Then he wanders into a pen that’s filled with real alligators, which Cecil describes as “big” and “scary.” He tiptoes away, then sits alone on a park bench, and covers his eyes as he cries. Soon he’s recognized by a child’s father, who remembered riding the carousel as a kid. Soon his son wants to ride the carousel, too, and so do more and more of the children at the zoo.

I thought this was a very original story with some clever touches. Keeping with the book’s merry-go-round theme, the story’s text always appears in ovals that are trimmed with fancy curlicues and golden paint. Together the children and the alligator cross the bridge and travel through the forest. “The calliope began to play, and the lights came back on.”

And “The hole in Gator’s heart was gone.”