When I'm in need of a topic for blog posts and displays, I often consult Brownie Locks or Chase's Calendar of Events. Scanning down the list of various monthly observances, special events, and holidays, I noticed that June is "National Zoo and Aquarium Month." Perfect! We have a multitude of outstanding children's books about zoos, ranging from stories with wacky adventures to guidebooks about zoo animals.
I'm not always keen on picture book versions of songs. They can be quite boring, frankly. Boring, unless it's a Will Hillenbrand creation. Down by the Station takes the familiar song ("Chug chug! Toot toot! Off we go!") and turns it into a darling "story" of animal babies saying goodbye to their parents and boarding a train to the children's zoo. The correct names for the baby animals are included (cub for pandas, joey for kangaroo, etc), which adds a nice educational touch. Lots of fun to read aloud!
Although most zoos include information kiosks and plaques about animals, finding time and room (because of crowds) to read through them can be tasking. The Kids' Guide to Zoo Animals is a great resource for browsing and leisurely reading about 200 animals commonly found in zoos. Descriptions, typical diet, behavior, habitat, and conservation status are included for each animal.
Although we have many books that take place at zoos, the opposite is true for aquariums! Thankfully, we have One Cool Friend (2013 Caldecott Honor) to represent the aquariums for Zoo and Aquarium Month. This is an offbeat, clever, and funny tale about a boy who sneaks a penguin home from the aquarium.
There are quite a few instances of authors making a series from a popular story and running it into the ground (won't name names). Bill Martin Jr's "sequels" to Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? is fortunately not one of them! Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear? take the familiar cadence of its predecessor, but focuses on animal sounds rather than colors.
A Sick Day for Amos McGee is one of my recent Caldecott Medal favorites (and also a fine read aloud, which isn't always the case for Caldecott books, which are judged on their artwork). This 2011 Medal winner features concerned animals caring for their zookeeper, who is under the weather.
Xander's Panda Party was one of my favorite picture books from 2013:
Xander the Panda is ready to throw a party for all the zoo pandas. After finding out that he's the only panda (awww, but wait for the ending!), he extends the invitation to all bears. Except that koalas aren't *really* bears, so the invitation is extended to mammals, which is further extended to birds, and so on and so on. Classification of animals has never been so cute, or so clever!
We recently ordered What's New? The Zoo! A A Zippy History of Zoos, so I haven't read it yet. It's by Kathleen Krull, one of the giants for children's nonfiction, so I'm confident that it is informative, intriguing, and inventive. Reviews have been great, to no one's surprise.
Judy Sierra's picture books are always wildly creative, with Wild About Books being one of my favorites. Molly McGrew drives the library's bookmobile to the zoo, and everyone has a rollicking time. This is a fun read aloud for kindergarten and lower elementary grades (some of the jokes may go over the heads of younger children), but requires some practice due to the creative wordplay and rhymes.
Zooborns! Zoo Babies From Around the World is based on the very popular blog of the same name. Cute pictures of baby animals in zoos are prominent, to be sure, but facts about the animals profiled in this short book are included (the blog includes lengthier descriptions). Although it's too brief for research purposes, it's ideal for casual reading for all ages.
Registration for our summer reading program is underway! Get all the details here.
Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library