Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Monday, October 3, 2011

Music Chases Away The Cold Weather Blues

Author Judy Sierra and illustrator Marc Brown have paired again to bring back the cast from Wild About Books, in a new title, ZooZical, at that charming place known as the Springfield Zoo where the impossible becomes wonderful. In a letter at the Amazon.com site featuring this title, Sierra states: I think of my new book, ZooZical as a little kids' Broadway musical. ... I wrote ZooZical in rhymed couplets and triplets, to a Seussian beat (anapestic tetrameter, mostly). I find this meter ideal for storytelling--so perfect, in fact, that it often conjures up parts of a tale as if by magic.

One blustery morning, when frosty winds blew,
When families stayed home, and when field trips were few,
The midwinter doldrums arrived at the zoo.

Peering through arched windows at the snowy outside, lemurs, wombats, snakes, ocelots, owls, pandas and penguins, to name a few, are out of sorts, closing down the zoo.  Within the habitats the situation looks grim when a small hippo and young kangaroo decide just what to do---they kick up their heels and hip-hop to rhythmic time.  It's looks like the winter blahs are leaving and the critters are going to be just fine.

They like to dance.  They like the beat.  So why not combine their talents and put on a tuneful treat.  Amidst much singing of childhood favorites tweaked to fit this melodious menagerie (Oh my darling, Oh my darling, Oh my darling porcupine.), sets are built and the word goes out that there's a happening at the zoo.

The people of Springfield trek through the snow and are not disappointed by the toe tapping little hippo that opens the show.  Tightrope walking bears, flamingos on a trapeze, dancing baboons and raccoons along with hula hooping snakes usher in the alphabet-song singing crocs.  When he finally awakes our bouncing joey wows the audience with his rendition of the Hokey Pokey. 

Music is powerful medicine; the syncopation of the text will have listeners and readers alike unable to sit still hands clapping, feet thumping and heads nodding.  Before long I know my students will be saying, "Can we dance while you read?"  That's exactly what Judy Sierra wants, her stories to be read aloud and performed.  In fact she has a twelve page PDF file at her web site, linked above, so this book can acted out through voice and dance. 

Marc Brown, using gouache on gessoed wood, begins with warm yellow endpapers covered in a sky blue musical score with red zoo animals cavorting across and on the lines.  His wintry scenes are soft shades of dotted blue, lavenders and whites evoking the chilly clime but once inside the walls of the zoo his hues harmonize with the antics of the inhabitants.  Their infectious exuberance splashes across the pages in a riotous rainbow of color that even without the text convey motion and measure.

Sure to be a crowd pleaser in winter, this title, ZooZical, is truly the ticket to fun for all no matter the weather or the season.

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