The Trouble with Zoos

Daisy and the Trouble with Zoos by Kes Gray
illustrated by Garry Parsons (cover illustration by Nick Sharratt)

The blurb: Daisy loves surprises! Especially special birthday surprises – like a trip to the zoo! Who’d have guessed a rhino could do so much wee all in one go! Who’d have imagined an elephant tooth was that heavy! Trouble is, the biggest surprise is yet to come.

All the Daisy books are super popular in my library. Last year, I couldn’t keep them on the shelves and Grade 2 were the biggest fans.  I held onto Daisy and the Trouble with Zoos just to see read ‘her’ opinion of zoos. There is a special inscription to Colchester Zoo so I assume this is where Kes Gray found some inspiration.

Here is a Daisy-ism about lions:

The trouble with lions is they lion down too much.  At least zoo lions do. You can watch monkeys for ages because they never stop swinging around or climbing on tyres or scratching their bottoms. But lions don’t have any ropes or tyres to play with. All they have is about two rocks.

They always look really puffed out though. Except you can never tell why. Telly lions are always racing after zebras and stuff, which would definitely puff you out because zebras are really fast runners. But zoo lions never seem to do anything. Apart from twitch their tails. If you ask me, all zoo lions seem to do is lion down all the time and blink a lot.

And they’ve got flies on their face. Me and Gabby counted thirteen flies on daddy lion’s face…

Daisy is a very funny character and she is obviously a big hit with my students. She has an ‘inquiring mind’ and hopefully encourages children to question what they see. Why shouldn’t a whale be kept in a zoo and why are zoo bins always overflowing with rubbish? I laughed aloud at her plight with the zoo adoption scheme. A great twist in the story.


Mog at the Zoo by Helen Nicoll and Jan Pieńkowski

I have always loved Meg and Mog stories. Meg is such an inspiration – her spells always go wrong but she keeps trying until she gets a result that whilst surprising makes everyone happy.

I read Mog at the Zoo on Halloween to a class of 3 and 4 year olds. They love the bright pictures and the bold simple text. They find the stories funny. The are not the easiest books to read aloud but the cartoon versions are excellent and all true to the book so take a look at those too.

In Mog at the Zoo, Mog the cat is mistaken for an escaped tiger. The zoo keepers do their best to catch him whilst the crocodiles cheer ‘GO! GO! GO!’ and the caged tigers shout ‘GRRREAT‘ and ‘BRRRILLIANT‘.

I asked the children “Why do the animals want Mog to escape?” and “What do you think the animals in the cages are thinking?”.

The cages are tiny.  Pandas, monkeys and an elephant, and finally Mog are stuffed inside. Meg casts a spell and in a flash Mog has put herself inside the cage but Mog at least, is out.

She tries another spell and this time she and all the animals are freed. The children loved this bit and named all the animals eating breakfast with Meg and Mog. Highly recommended and if you want an inspiring story about how creative a person can be, even in a motorway service cafe, read Helen Nicoll’s obituary. She was a very interesting person and even contributed to the success of Harry Potter. Jan Pieńkowski is still creating and his website is here.

The Midnight Zoo by Sonya Harnett

Oh, what a good book this is. Intelligent, interesting, exciting and very well written. I fell in love with Sonya Harnett’s writing when I finally read Stripes of the Sidestep Wolf which had been sitting on my library shelves for years. The Midnight Zoo is a great book for good readers from Grades 4 up. It is literary fiction, which is not always easy to find and this would be a good contender for Battle of the Books.

The story is about two Romany boys and their baby sister who witness their family and friends being rounded up by Nazi soldiers. Forced to survive by themselves they run into the woods, finally coming a zoological gardens on the edge of a town. Inside its cages are a wolf, bear, lioness, chamois, eagle, boar, kangaroo and swimming in a dirty pool is a seal. When the boys find out the animals can talk the younger boy, Tomas is not surprised as

“Locked in cages with nothing better to do, how could they help but learn the language of the zoo’s visitors.”

The animals have been abandoned, they are starving and have only rainwater to drink. The boys, afraid at first, do their best to share their food. In return, the animals tell the boys their stories. They speak fondly of Alice, the zookeepers daughter who has left them to join the resistance.Alice felt that “the zoo was not the marvellous place she’s always believed it to be. She detested the visitors


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