The Zoo Box

Ariel Cohn, illus. by Aron Nels Steinke. First Second, $17.99 (48p) ISBN 978-1-62672-052-7
The box that must not be opened is a tried-and-true storytelling device; Cohn and Steinke’s graphic novel–style picture book, however, is anything but formulaic. Patrick and Erika are left alone in their pajamas when their parents go out; if they behave, they can go to the zoo the next day. The siblings promptly discover a hatbox in the attic labeled “do not open,” which Patrick opens, releasing a menagerie of full-size animals that make their way to the zoo. Erika and Patrick follow, only to discover that the zoo’s visitors are animals, and the zoo animals are—“Patrick!” Erika cries, “They keep humans in this zoo!” A breathless chase scene follows (“The humans are escaping!”); Erika and Patrick manage to elude their captors and stuff everyone back into the box just in time. Cohn’s minimal text is simultaneously funny and foreboding; it’s balanced by Steinke’s doll-like figures, whose pin-dot eyes and stiff movements ease the tension. It’s not hard to see why the promise of a trip to the zoo loses its luster for Patrick and Erika; readers may think twice, too. Ages 5–7. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 06/23/2014
Release date: 09/02/2014
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