My Heart Is Like a Zoo by Michael Hall

Hall, Michael. My Heart Is Like a ZooNew York: Greenwillow Books, 2010. Cover of My Heart Is Like a Zoo by Michael Hall

Plot:  A heart can hold so many feelings, so many animals.

Setting: a child’s bedroom

Point of View: 3rd person

Theme: hearts, emotions, feelings, animals, imagination, bedtime, shapes, counting

Literary Quality: “My heart is like a zoo– eager as a beaver, steady as a yak, hopeful as a hungry heron fishing for a snack.” Thus begins a fun and silly exploration of the heart and all its feelings, and the animals it resembles in each state. A mix of the expected and unexpected (my heart is…”crafty as a fox, quiet as a caterpillar wearing knitted socks”), the text will delight readers and listeners. If Hall’s writing were not enough to draw children in, the bright, bold and colors of his illustrations would do so in a jiffy. Each animal is composed of a collage of hearts, perfectly complementing and paralleling the text (and offering inspiration for a post-reading craft!). When the story ends, “tired as a zookeeper who’s had a busy day,” the illustration reveals that the animals are actually in a child’s bedroom, a child who sleeps. A lovely reflection on emotions and art, this book will help children express themselves in myriad ways. Plus, children will enjoy counting all of the hearts they can find!

Audience: I would recommend this book to readers ages 0-5. A wonderful way to help young readers think about their feelings. 

Personal reaction: I gave My Heart Is Like a Zoo to my son as a little Valentine’s Day gift this year. I love the use of the heart as the central theme of the story and as the mode of composition for the illustrations! This is the kind of book my boy would have loved from day one, when he only liked books with big blocks of color. I immediately picked up a copy to send along to a friend’s new baby, as well.

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Dancing Feet! by Lindsey Craig and Marc Brown

Craig, Lindsey. Dancing Feet! Illustrated by Marc Brown. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2010.
dancing_feet

Plot:  Guess who is dancing on lots of different feet? A whole menagerie of animals! And children, too!

Setting: Imaginary

Point of View: 1st person (determined by “We are dancing on stampity feet!” at the end)

Theme: dance, movement, animals, music, sound, rhythm, feet, imagination

Literary Quality: Energy bounds from the pages of this rhythmic story. Craig playfully explores sounds, movements, and colors in her text:

Creepity! Creepity!

Lots of purple feet!

Who is dancing

that creepity beat?

Caterpillar’s dancing on creepity feet.

Creepity! creepity!

Happy feet!

Every animal’s feet are a different color and have a different dance, but they’re all happy! The sounds each animal’s feet make are emphasized with italics on the page. Of course, these sounds evoke motions — tippity, stompityslappity, creepity, etc. — and offer a great opportunity for children to practice the movements, an opportunity cemented by the final dancers, children who imitate the animals. The patterns of related sounds and repetition of the question and answer format make for a perfect read-aloud. Marc Brown’s colorful collages keep the momentum going. His illustrations of the feet provide visual clues to which animals will be seen in full dancing on the following spreads. This is a story that will get everybody up and moving their happy feet!

Audience: Ages 1-7.

Personal reaction: We’re big fans of Dancing Feet in our household, and have been since my son was just a few months old. The bold collages and musical text have always captivated his attention. The animals and their dances are silly and fun. I love how seamlessly this story brings music, movement, colors, and animals together. 

Mommy Loves by Anne Gutman and Georg Hallensleben

Cover image of "Mommy Loves" by Anne Gutman and Georg HallenslebenGutman, Anne. Mommy Loves. Illustrated by Georg Hallensleben. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2005.

Plot:  This story begins with a timeless theme: “All mommies love their babies.” Each page then describes a mommy animal who loves her baby animal, and helps young children count from 1-10.

Point of View: 1st person (although it could be 3rd person until the final page)

Theme: Babies, mommies, mothers, children, love, affection, animals, baby animals, numbers, counting, board books

Literary Quality: This board book uses a popular theme among children’s books – animals and their babies – to convey a simple and universal message: all mothers love their children. Repetion of the “Mommy…loves…” phrase on each page with different types of animals provides a soothing rhythm for babies. In addition to the more commonly seen animal pairs such as cats and kittens, dogs and puppies, Gutman includes pairings of less familiar animals and their babies such as hedgehogs, mice, and fish. The number of babies in each illustration increases from one to ten, accompanied by the same printed number painted in the corner of each page. These details, along with Hallensleben’s bold and colorful oil paintings of the animals, make this book a wonderful choice for infants and toddlers. Interestingly, the original French title, Les Chiffres (Hachette Jeunesse, 2001), puts more emphasis on the counting and concept aspect of this book than its English translation, which focuses on the motherly love element.

Audience: Ages 0-4. This is a board book babies can grow with, and parents might even learn a couple of new baby animal names!

Personal reaction:  Mommy Loves is the first board book I picked out as an expectant mother, and I look forward to sharing this sweet and gentle story with my baby. I love the combination of Hallensleben’s rich paintings, the simple and comforting text with some unusual animal choices, and the counting concept.