The Way to the Zoo

by John Burningham (Author) John Burningham (Illustrator)

The Way to the Zoo
Reading Level: 2nd − 3rd Grade

The celebrated John Burningham opens the door to a child's secret adventure in this picture-book classic.

What if you noticed a door in your bedroom that wasn't there before? And what if it led to a passage to . . . the zoo? You might want to take just one little bear back to your room with you, or maybe just all the smaller animals. But how could you resist the penguins and the tigers and the birds?

In this classic child's fantasy featuring John Burningham's delightfully expressive artwork, an unlocked door leads to pandemonium -- and one little girl's formidable voice reins in an entire menagerie.

Publishers Weekly

With his characteristically diffident line, Burningham (Picnic) draws Sylvie, a resourceful girl who discovers a door in her room that leads directly to the zoo. She's not interested in visiting; instead, she offers hospitality. "Sylvie asked a little bear to come back with her. He did and slept in her bed." The bandy-legged bear cub, seen holding Sylvie's hand as she leads him home, looks a bit hesitant, but the next page shows the two blissfully asleep under Sylvie's duvet. As long as Sylvie remembers to bring the animals back to the zoo, and to close the door before she leaves for school, the nighttime exchanges can continue. Penguins are bathed and dried, assorted tropical birds doze on the furniture, and a mother tiger spends the night in an armchair. With hushed colors and a gossamer touch, Burningham provides just enough conflict to keep things interesting, especially when Sylvie forgets to close the door one morning. The result is a story that offers much of the same marvelous drollery as Philip and Erin Stead's A Sick Day for Amos McGee. Ages 3-7. (Aug.)

Copyright 2014 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

School Library Journal

PreS-Gr 1--What could be more wonderful for Sylvie than discovering a secret door in her bedroom that leads down a passageway right to a zoo? After taking home a little bear for a sleepover the first night, the other animals all want to do the same. The smaller animals fit right in, while others are less successful (the penguins make a splashy mess, the monkeys tend to steal things, the rhino is too big for the bed). All goes well until, in a rush to get to school one morning, Sylvie forgets to close the secret door. When she comes home, she finds all of the animals sprawled about the living room watching TV. She promptly shoos them back and gets the house almost presentable when her dismayed mom returns and shouts, "All I have to do is leave you at home while I go out for awhile and it looks as if you had the whole zoo in here." The sketchy pen, pencil, pastel and watercolor illustrations are set against expansive white space that frames the action from page to page. Text and art work seamlessly together in this tale that mirrors the secret dreams of many imaginative children.--Marge Loch-Wouters, La Crosse Public Library, WI

Copyright 2014 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

With characteristic simplicity and economy of line, veteran illustrator Burningham conveys the wonder of Sylvie's discovery, thus fulfilling a common childhood fantasy—to bring real, live zoo animals into your room and have them sleep in your bed. ... As in so many of his other books, Burningham's appeal lies in his ability to invent a fantasy scenario available only to young children, accomplishing it again here with consummate grace.
—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

The sketchy pen, pencil, pastel and watercolor illustrations are set against expansive white space that frames the action from page to page. Text and art work seamlessly together in this perfect tale that mirrors the secret dreams of many imaginative children.
—School Library Journal

With the true Burningham touch, Sylvie's arrangements have both the impeccable childlike logic and the solid reality of the best fantasy. His loose, masterfully limned drawings are touched with scrumptious, harmonious hues—pure blue with elegant chartreuse, a black-raspberry chair with turquoise legs, various animals in benignly soft browns and grays.
—Horn Book

Pen-and-ink drawings feature lines that fairly quiver, capturing the excitement and action. ... An imaginative romp.
—Booklist Online
John Burningham
John Burningham works in the basement of his house in London on an old boardroom table, which came from The Monkey Club, a school for debutantes in Kensington, and is littered with pens, pencils, paints, papers and rough drawings. When he's not working on a book, he loves collecting -- furniture, statues, staircases, and old curtains. He travels around England and France looking for unusual things to put in his house or to sell to someone else. John marks the day with things to look forward to -- a large mug of good strong coffee to start the day, lunch, when his wife, children's book writer and illustrator Helen Oxenbury and John can discuss their work or just have a general chat; and at around six o'clock, a drink of delicious red wine, preferably French (wine is another one of his interests). He has always been interested in the third dimension, and many of his books have to be constructed layer by layer because he enjoys painting on different materials -- paper, cardboard, wood -- so that a variety of textures comes through on the printed page.
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Candlewick Press (MA)
Publication date
August 20, 2014
Texas 2x2 Reading List
Recommended 2015 - 2015

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