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.