Dear Zoo: a literary criticism

One of Amelie’s favourite books at the moment is Dear Zoo. It’s an enduring classic, I have to admit. She enjoys the story and it’s nice reading it again after Dylan and Xander grew out of it. In fact, it’s one of the few books she hasn’t damaged, which is a sign of great esteem. In short, we love this book.

That said, the English Literature graduate and pedant in me has some questions about elements of the plot. And despite the great affection I have for this title, they’ve been bothering me since I first read it.

There now follows some daft whimsy along with the odd spoiler if your little one is in earshot and you still like to read aloud.

Who is the narrator?

We never find out the identity of the person asking the zoo for its residents so I’m going to make an educated guess. It’s either a kid who hasn’t heard of pet shops or an eccentric collector with a ridiculous sense of entitlement, but I’d like to know for sure.

Why does the zoo go along with these requests?

Inexplicably, the zoo is happy to repeatedly accommodate these requests. What kind of message does this send out? I mean – if I wrote to The British Museum and casually asked for the Elgin Marbles, it would be a reasonable response to suggest I’d lost mine.

Is it entirely legal?

As we’ve established, the central protagonist is requesting the company of some pretty big animals. Even more alarmingly, the zoo is cooperating. But have all parties considered the legal ramifications? There’s no mention of money changing hands. Plus has the Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976 been taken into account?

Are all of the reasons for returning animals valid?

I used to work at an animal welfare charity so have heard loads of excuses from people giving up their pets. My ‘favourite’ for want of a better word was that a cat didn’t go with the sofa. In Dear Zoo, a camel is sent packing for being too grumpy. So he’s not a morning person. Bit harsh, that.

Why does the zoo have a dog?

The story reaches a happy conclusion as the zoo finally appeases the narrator with a puppy. With the exception of a pun about a disappointing, one-canine menagerie being a Shih Tzu, I’ve never seen a dog exhibited in such an establishment. Interestingly, the tag on its basket reads “From all your friends at the zoo”. Is this an insincere and expensive last-ditch effort to stop the begging letters? Almost certainly.

7 Comments
  • Jim Flowers
    September 21, 2017

    Love this Tom… I’m also concerned as to HOW these animals have been sent… a rainforest looking tropical frog doesn’t seem like it could survive in a shoe box and the giraffe seems like its being sent behind a garden gate which is clearly too small as its head sticks out… don’t even get me started on a snake in a wicker basket either 😉

    • Tom
      September 27, 2017

      Cheers Jim. Yes, the snake in a wicker basket could be taken as rather threatening. Maybe the Zoo staff weren’t as friendly as they looked!

  • The DADventurer (Dave)
    September 26, 2017

    Haha, great post. This too is a favourite in our house and I’ve often questioned similar things, particularly why there’s a dog at the zoo and why a zoo would send an animal on request. It’s almost like these kid’s authors don’t think things through properly…

    • Tom
      September 27, 2017

      Thanks Dave! Thinking about it, I might try writing to estate agents and asking them for a bigger house. If it works in this book, it could work elsewhere, right?

  • Warren
    September 28, 2017

    Great piece. Had me chuckling. Read that book to death with two daughters

  • Alice Burrell
    October 10, 2017

    Ha ha love the crit!

    For a few years we only read it from the pile provided in the doctors waiting room, and we were always called before we reached the last page; this happened several times making the story a cliffhanger. I kid you not – I was forced to buy the book second hand from a neighbour to find out how it ended.

    Too “jumpy” though. Seriously?

  • Kate | Lesbemums
    October 11, 2017

    These are hilarious! I’ve often wondered a few of these kings too. Plus! The actual grammar of the book frustrates me. I feel there should be a few more ‘So’ included at the start of the paragraph.

    Great post.

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