cover image Zoo-Looking


Mem Fox, Charles Fox. Mondo Publishing, $15.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-1-57255-010-0

When Flora goes to the zoo with her father, the animals watch her as carefully as she watches them: ""She looked at the penguin/ and the penguin looked back [and] she looked at the monkey/ as its baby got a smack."" The pattern continues: various zoo animals ""look back,"" and others are described in matching rhymes (the snake slithers through a crack, the panther's coat is black, the elephant lives next to a yak, etc.). Despite Fox's (Koala Lou) trademark rhythms, the text is limited by her reliance on a list of animals instead of a developed plot, and by the use of a single rhyme. Except for the minimal surprise at the end, when Flora's father is the one who ""smiles back"" at her, the text--originally published in Australia in 1986--often seems either forced or predictable. On the other hand, Whitman's (The Night Is Like an Animal) playful, brightly blurred collage and watercolor illustrations are full of suggestive shadows. Flora's wide-brimmed purple hat provides a clear reference point as the artist changes the angles from which the animals are viewed. The freshness and whimsy of the art revive this otherwise tired title. Ages 4-7. (June)