Zoo Ah-choooo

Peter Mandel, illus. by Elwood Smith. Holiday House, $16.95 (32p) ISBN 978-0-8234-2317-0
Yawns can be contagious, but sneezes? They sure are in this strangely sedate offering from Mandel (Jackhammer Sam) and Smith (Stalling), in which “a sleepy Sunday at the City Zoo” is disrupted by a snow leopard’s sneeze, with other animals following suit. Mandel has fun with the over-the-top sneeze sounds the animals make—the elephant’s “RRRrrr-eeeEEE-ahh-PHOOOO!!!” takes down a tree and flattens a fence, and the hippo’s “Kah-bah-RUMppphhhHHHH!!!” causes a mud volcano. Yet for all these outsize consequences, the brunt of the prose is overly descriptive and flat (“The Zookeeper knew he had to act. Act fast. Flamingos were floating. Foxes were fishing. The Polar Bear hung on to his iceberg”), and the quick-fix ending is unsatisfying. Smith’s pen, ink, and watercolor cartoons feature wide-eyed animals, perplexed zoo visitors, and plenty of geyserlike explosions, but never really create a true sense of chaos. The book ends as sleepily as it begins, with the animals snoozing (a gag that regular zoo-goers will appreciate), and even the promise of a second round of silliness isn’t enough to rescue this outing. Ages 3–6. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 02/06/2012
Release date: 02/01/2012
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