cover image Never Play Music Right Next to the Zoo

Never Play Music Right Next to the Zoo

John Lithgow, illus. by Leeza Hernandez. Simon & Schuster, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-4424-6743-9

After a boy falls asleep at an outdoor concert near the zoo, mayhem erupts: “All at once the conductor erupted with rage!/ A band of wild animals was storming the stage!” Lithgow (I Got Two Dogs) describes the chaos in high-spirited verse (which he also sings on an accompanying CD): “The monkeys played fiddle, the bison played bass,/ the percussions were manned by the camel./ The yak played the sax until red in the face—/a surprisingly musical mammal.” The premise has lots of comedic potential, and Hernandez (Dog Gone!) delivers: a flautist fends off a bear and two raccoons with her music stand and, later, a blue tutu-wearing hippo blasts the tuba “by the light of the silvery moon.” Readers get an incidental introduction to various instruments, but light nonsense is this book’s raison d’être. Although some rhymes feel padded or extraneous (immediately after the concert, the animals “each reminisced, so grateful and glad,/ so full of contentment and pride”), it’s a frisky addition to the author’s oeuvre of musical picture books. Ages 2–6. Author’s agent: Lark Productions. Illustrator’s agent: Rachel Orr, Prospect Agency. (Oct.)