Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Mr. Peek and the Misunderstanding at the Zoo


Have you ever had one of those days where your clothes seem extraordinarily tight? You finally make the connection between the french fries you love and the love handles you don't. It occurs to you that maybe eating glazed crullers for breakfast every day isn't doing your butt any favors. Sadly, it doesn't end there. Those tight pants are making you pretty irritable, which affects your whole day. Now you know how Mr. Peek feels!    

One ordinary morning, like every other morning, Mr. Peek dons his very official looking green zookeeper jacket. Except this morning, the jacket stretches tightly across his shoulders and a button sproings right off the front. Oh, this is not a good start to Mr. Peek's day.  He tries to tell himself "it's only a button" but his thoughts go downhill from there. Mr. Peek starts to lament how heavy he has become, how the animals are probably all making fun of his girth, and how he's getting too old and wrinkly to do this job.

Mr. Peek doesn't realize it, but his shrinking jacket and negative attitude is affecting the whole zoo. Each time he makes a derogatory comment about himself, the animals in each section of the zoo assume he's talking about them! The hippo thinks she's too heavy, the bear is positive he stinks and the elephant is hyper aware of her deep wrinkles. The crocodiles are nervous, the penguins don't want to eat and the giraffes believe none of the other animals like them.  Mr. Peek is wreaking havoc on the zoo, albeit unintentionally. 

On his rounds, Mr. Peek stumbles across his son, Jimmy, wearing a very large green jacket.  Why, he hasn't hasn't gained too much weight, but simply donned his son's much smaller jacket!  Greatly relieved, they swap jackets and the zookeeper retraces his steps through the zoo, murmuring uplifting statements. Once again, the animals overhear and are overjoyed to hear his positive words.    

Awesome illustrations and a really humorous misunderstanding that takes on a life of its own make this a darn funny book.  Mr. Peek is totally oblivious that he's alarming the entire zoo, mumbling along about his own insecurities.  He's got the animals all worked up and doesn't have a clue.  I particularly love the alarmed expressions on their poor faces as their keeper rattles on about their physical limitations and character flaws. It really is a toss up as to which is better - the illustrations or the story.  Win-win for the readers!

Review copy provided by Templar Books/Candlewick Press.

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