The Zoo Box
First Second reaches out to younger readers with the just-past-a-picture-book The Zoo Box, written by Ariel Cohn. It’s a simple story — Erika and Patrick are left home to tuck themselves into bed, but they wind up opening the zebra-striped zoo box in the attic instead — so the lasting appeal is the simple, charming art of Aron Nels Steinke.
The kids love animals, and they’re promised a trip to the zoo tomorrow if they behave. After the events of their evening, though, that might not be necessary. When they open the box, a whole zoo’s worth of animals emerge. The kids then wind up at a zoo where the visitors are beasts and the exhibits are humans. It’s a dream-like fable that turns the tables and allows for some fun, silly images and ideas.
The horizontal layout contains many single-page panels to set the stage or highlight the scenes filled with animals. Other pages are structured in a basic four-panel square, to move events along, or a combination of smaller or larger panels, depending on what’s important to the story. It’s like a starter course in reading comic layouts.
I was reminded, with the magical events, of Mary Poppins — without the guiding adult figure — while the animals and the storytelling evoke Richard Scarry. Kids will likely enjoy identifying all the animals on the many big pages. This is a great read for those children who love animals and zoos.
The Zoo Box is due out in September and can be ordered from your local comic shop with Diamond code JUL14 1265. There’s a photo preview online. (The publisher provided an advance digital review copy.)