Written by Lori Degman
Illustrated by Colin Jack
(Simon & Schuster, 2010)
Who originated the expression “party animal”? During all the years I watched “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom”, I don’t recall a scene with flamingos frolicking by a watering hole, greeting a herd of wildebeests who decided to crash the party. And yet the term sticks. Rather than question it, Lori Degman’s 1 Zany Zoo decides to just go with it.
When kids go to the zoo, they want to stay until closing. “But we haven’t seen the penguins! Or the blue-dotted moth!” If a meltdown doesn’t ensue, a family may indeed stay for the duration. 1 Zany Zoo does to zoos what the movie “Night at the Museum” does to museums: it imagines the frivolity that goes on after the patrons go home.
Degman sets her rhyming tale early in the morning as an eager crowd lines up outside the zoo entrance. One boy can’t wait; he sneaks in through a gate. Oh, what he sees! It’s a circus inside that zoo!
All starts off unremarkably. Animals sleeping, zookeeper sweeping. But then:
1 fearless fox grabbed the zookeeper’s keys.
He used them to set all the animals free.
Yep, get the party started. The antics go up, notch after notch, as the reader counts to ten. 2 sporty zebras,...3 fussy beavers,...
My favorite verse pertains to the number six:
6 groovy ‘roos tapped the beat with their shoes,
and laughing hyenas sang rhythm and blues.
A lizard in sunglasses wailed on the sax,
while monkeys kept time on the box turtles’ backs.
That I’d like to have seen on “Wild Kingdom”—could’ve replaced the lion-noshing-on zebra footage, thank you very much.
There is great humor in this book. It’s worth tracking down to find out what changes the fickle leopards wish to see and what makes the zoo elephants anxious.
Colin Jack’s digital illustrations add to the amusement. He has a distinct drawing style, using jarring angles and slopes to help create the characters. The pictures also invite the viewer to linger to take in the extras. The chimps try to steal a few scenes, but it’s a totally into it koala bear that wins my heart on the page featuring the number 10.
Is this what really happens behind locked gates at zoos? The boy in the book swears it’s a true story. Who am I to question? 1 Zany Zoo is a celebration of authentic party animals.