Always Lots of Heinies at the Zoo

Ayun Halliday, Author, Dan Santat, Illustrator , illus. by Dan Santat. Disney-Hyperion $15.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-4231-1352-2

In her children's debut, Halliday offers a wry tribute to the infinite variety of animal rear ends (“Some are smooth/ And some are shiny/ Some are swimming in the briny”). Her couplets evince both an ease with current slang (“Ms. Elephant's got junk/ In her supplemental trunk”) as well as more refined aesthetic (the mandrill's rear is “cobalt blue,” the polar bear's backside is “more of an ecru”). But while the text just itches to be read aloud—a mock hauteur is highly recommended—Santat's (The Secret Life of Walter Kitty ) pictures convey little more than an artist yet to be inspired. His literal animal portraits are tame bordering on lethargic (a panther, for example, simply lolls on a branch) and his humans don't fare much better—only in the end when the young protagonist decides to show off his assets like the other animals does the art approach the clever mischievousness of the text. One need only look to Kevin Hawkes's recent work in Chicken Cheeks to get a sense of how this book's promise has been squandered. Ages 3–7. (May)

Reviewed on: 04/27/2009
Release date: 05/01/2009
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