The Zoo Box is the lively story of Erika and Patrick, whose parents leave for the night putting Erika in charge and telling them to be good. The first thing they do is run upstairs to dress up in their animal costumes and then to investigate. They find a box labeled “Do Not Open,” so of course they do, and out pops a flamingo. Enjoying this, Patrick opens the box yet further, an entire zooful of animals pops out and streams from the house and down the road. The children follow them to a zoo run by animals with people as the exhibit. They explore, dodge animals intent on putting them into cages, and try to get back to bed on time.
Ariel Cohn’s brother-sister pair makes quite a team as they bounce on the attic furniture, try on costumes, and take turns figuring out how to get away from the animals once they are spotted at the zoo. Erika is they more cautious older sister, worried about consequences, while Patrick is the more devil-may-care younger brother, though they take turns figuring out how to handle the difficulties the box creates. The inside-out zoo is a fun concept, and the scene where Patrick and Erica find their own room behind bars is a mix of slightly scary and funny.
Aron Nels Stienke works with bright, clear colors and little shading or texturing in the backgrounds, giving the book an intense, appealing look. He works on color contrast, putting clear yellow against green, or adding a pink roof to an orange house. The animals are active, expressive creatures. One crocodile has a big, toothy grin, other struts around in a black leather jacket; the rhinoceros looks thoughtful, and all of them are enjoying the cages full of “Acrobats” and “Sports” teams. The panel layout is clear and easy to follow save in a couple of instances where the children themselves are confused as they run.
The Zoo Box is a lively hybrid between the comic book and the picture book suitable for reading with children.
The Zoo Box is out now.
Age Range: 5 – 7 years
Grade Level: Kindergarten – 2
Hardcover: 48 pages
Publisher: First Second (July 15, 2014)