“A trip to the zoo that focuses too highly on imagination.”
Amadou’s class is preparing for a field trip to an old zoo, but Amadou has trouble learning about its history in the classroom as his wandering mind imagines all of the zoo animals. He continues to struggle waiting in line for the train, listening to instructions at the zoo, and following directions his teacher, Madame Minier, gives—his imagination is sweeping him away as he enjoys the animals, dreaming of riding atop the elephants or swimming with a hippopotamus. Little by little he draws his classmates away from their teacher and into his imaginative fun, until even Madame Minier abandons her initial instructions and joins her students in seeing the zoo through their eyes. The illustrations highlight Amadou’s imagination, mirroring his creative outlook through color. First, only Amadou is portrayed in color, then the animals at the zoo, then his classmates, and finally even his teacher as they all join in Amadou’s adventures. While full of imaginative fun, Walsh’s storyline ultimately feels unsatisfactory: Amadou’s disruptive behavior receives all the praise, while his teacher’s disciplined approach—admittedly perhaps too up tight, as she won’t even allow Amadou to stand on one foot like the flamingoes—is abandoned. Finding a balance and mutual respect between to two would have strengthened the story.
Amadou has waited…and waited…and WAITED for his class trip to the zoo. But when they arrive, his teacher would rather talk about rules and facts. So, Amadou eagerly explores the zoo in his own special way―by allowing his imagination to lead. As more and more classmates follow him into his irresistible world of adventure, the sepia-toned zoo fills with vibrant color. Only one question remains―will Amadou’s teacher follow, too?
At once an ode to childlike wonder and patient teachers, Amadou’s Zoo encourages the child and adult reader alike to find connections with the world around them. Based on her own observations at the Ménagerie in Paris, Rebecca Walsh has delicately captured the feel of both an old-fashioned zoo and the modern, diverse class trip taking place within it.
Rebecca Walsh studied illustration at the Rhode Island School of Design and has worked in advertising, packaging and educational publishing. She illustrated The Well at The End of the World by Robert D. San Souci, How the Tiny People Grew Tall: An Original Creation Tale by Nancy Wood, and The Girl Who Wanted to Dance by Amy Ehrlich. Amadou’s Zoo is her debut book as an author-illustrator. Much of her imagery can be traced back to her childhood in the rolling hills of rural Vermont. She currently lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts with her husband, and their two children.