Books

HAPPY AS A TAPIR

Publisher's Weekly

Carbone's picture book debut will fascinate anyone who has ever wondered what happens at night when the zoo animals are left to their own devices. Carbone imagines that they unzip and unbutton their skins like costumes, revealing themselves to be members of the same imaginary multi-hued species. Twice a year these creatures, who resemble upright, large-bellied turtles without shells, trade animal identities, provided they have mastered their most recent roles. When a newcomer balks at repeating a stint as a shy, retiring tapir, he upsets the status quo and unwittingly embarks on a process of self-discovery. While DuQuette's (A Ripping Day for a Picnic) illustrations powerfully evoke a mood of nocturnal mystery, there is something cartoonish in his depiction of the disrobed animals that does not mesh well with his predominantly formal style. Similarly, while Carbone manages to touch upon a number of thought-provoking themes--the deceptiveness of appearances, the value of humility and apprenticeship, the importance of being true to one's self--these notions are not clearly integrated. But despite these shortcomings, the book's witty premise will certainly cause youngsters to wonder who's zoo. Ages 3-8. (May)

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© Keith DuQuette 2010