Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell

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Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell

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Category: For Sharing
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: Dear Zoo is one of those must-have picture books. It's simple, rhythmic, humorous and it has longevity. Perfect for babies of a year upwards, it will probably last until they are four or five. It should be one of the first items on your shopping list and is at least as important as the nappies and the cot.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 8 Date: October 1997
Publisher: Campbell Books
ISBN: 0333712781

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"'I wrote to the zoo to send me a pet. They sent me a...'"

"What would you ask the zoo to send you?"

"A dinosaur!"

"Don't be silly, they're all dead."

"Oh. Oh yeah. A gibbon then."

"A gibbon?"

"They make those whooping noises. I like gibbons."

"A panda."

"A velociraptor!"

"No, that's a dinosaur. I told you, they're all dead. A meteor came."

"Hurry up Mummy."

"'Elephant! He was too big. I sent him back.'"

"How many is an elephant then?"

"Nearly as big as this house."

"Is that seventeen?"

"No, more than that."

"Hurry up Mummy."

"'So they sent me a...'"

"Giraffe! Yay!"

Dear Zoo is one of those "lift the flap books". In case you hadn't guessed, it's about a letter to the zoo from a child who wants a pet. They send various different animals, all of which prove unsuitable for one reason or another the elephant is too big, the lion too fierce, the giraffe too tall, the monkey too naughty. Finally, the zoo send a puppy: "He was perfect! I kept him." And simple as they sound those last few words never fail to bring childish, happy, satisfied smiles.

Each flap, in the shape of a crate, or a basket, or a box with breathing holes, conceals one of the animals and a little part of the animal is visible before the flap is lifted to allow guessing. The littlest toddlers find them endlessly funny. Children laugh at the bright, quirky, simple little pictures and are always surprised to see which animal lays beneath.

Because it's so simple Dear Zoo is super as one of the first books you might like to read to your baby. The pages are clean and uncluttered and it's easy for them to focus and concentrate on the few words and the direct illustrations that have detail but not too much - the monkey is eating a banana, the lion's crate has a danger sign on it - enough to talk about not not enough to confuse. But because it's one of those simple, but perfect ideas, Dear Zoo is super for much, much longer than that. Reading it over the years, we've had conversations about what characteristics different animals have, about what noises they make, what they like to eat, about why some animals live in zoos and some in houses as pets, about how different animals need to be looked after differently, about writing letters to people, about what presents they'd like for themselves, about how to choose presents for others, and about oh, so many other things.

Dear Zoo is a bestseller, it's incredibly popular, but deservedly so. If you've children you've probably not missed it, in one or other of its many variations you probably have it already sitting on your shelves, well thumbed. It's probably got some jam stains on it and many sticky tape patches and mends, or something similar, like our copy has. But you never know, you might not know about it, or you might want to think of present for a little one of your acquaintance, or you might want some ideas for your baby-to-be, or something. Put this one on your list. It's the best sort of picture book you can buy; beautifully simple, beautifully cosy, beautifully amusing but with a lot more to talk about than the words in its few pages. And it'll seem fresh for a long, long time. Honest.

"'He was perfect! I kept him.' Right then, time for bed."

We've also seen Dear Zoo Book and Storyblocks - a cube containing a small copy of the book (with flaps!) and ten blocks (which stack inside each other for storage) which correspond to the story. Great fun!

If you're building a basic library of picture books, another must-have item is The Tiger That Came To Tea by Judith Kerr.

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Buy Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell at


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