cover image Welcome to the Zoo

Welcome to the Zoo

Alison Jay, . . Dial, $16.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-8037-3177-6

Working in the burnished, crackle-varnished surfaces that are her signature, Jay (1-2-3: A Child's First Counting Book ) takes the idea of a cageless zoo to the extreme, imagining humans and animals mingling with all the privileged coolness of habitués of a five-star resort. Pairs of self-possessed raccoons and humans in chic sunglasses regard each other as fellow hipsters; families and a panoply of bear species tuck into some al fresco snacks with impeccable manners; and a monkey buys ice cream from a vendor. As in many of Jay's works, there are virtually no words. Richly populated tableaux are threaded with ministories, and readers can follow the respective trails of a runaway balloon and bonnet, as well as the vain attempts of a zookeeper to corral an ostrich. But the overall effect falls short of Jay's best titles with fairy tale or nursery rhyme themes. The more ordinary setting (however extraordinary some of the elements) results in an emotionally flatter impression; the experience is more cerebral than beguiling. Ages 3–5. (Oct.)