cover image Zany Zoo

Zany Zoo

William Wise, , illus. by Lynn Munsinger. . Houghton/Lorraine, $16 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-618-18891-8

Wise (Ten Sly Piranhas ) serves up 25 poems about animals whose behavior is wacky mostly because it's so recognizably human: the subjects range from a pair of Little League-playing elephants to a gaggle of untalented geese who decide to mount a production of Hamlet . Those who enjoy over-the-top humor will most appreciate the plays on words: a "panda-monium" describes a raucous fiesta of the black-and-white bears, while "a social cat-astrophe" results when a feline's disco pants split in public. There's enough verbal bounce to amuse young ears, and Wise not only entertains but challenges children with his use of vocabulary: "Young Carlos was a crocodile,/ A species known for strength and guile./ 'Of me,' he cried, 'let all be wary!/ I 'm the ruler of this estuary!' " Munsinger (the Tacky the Penguin books) helps provide a visual context for figuring out the unknown words, and proves once again that, when it comes to imagining anthropomorphized animals, she has few peers. No matter what species she puts her pen to, the result is always a creation that's at once touching and tickling. Ages 4-8. (Mar.)