Heart-y! My Heart Is Like a Zoo by Michael Hall
MY HEART IS LIKE A ZOO!
EAGER AS A BEAVER.
STEADY AS A YAK.
HOPEFUL AS A HUNGRY HERON
FISHING FOR A SNACK.
Award-winning designer Michael Hall's first picture book effort, My Heart Is Like a Zoo (Greenwillow, 2009), constructs a menagerie of charming animals from overlapping hearts, set forth appealingly against solid-color double-page spreads. Although some of his text lines, all similes which compare heartfelt feelings to animal behavior, work better than others, the illustrations alone are so cleverly creative in their construction that they will hold the attention of preschool listeners and older readers throughout this book.
Particularly engaging is Hall's walrus, reclining massively but comfortably on a striped beach towel, head, bulky body, and front feet all inverted hearts, hind flippers formed from a recumbent heart--all instantly recognizable as this slow and stolid animal, with an appropriate caption...
... PEACEFUL AS A PORTLY WALRUS LOUNGING ON A TOWEL...
and followed by an equally clever clam, consisting of two hearts, one split down the middle and on its side to form the shell, and the second, peeping out to form the clam inside, with its line...
... COZY AS A CLAM...
The first reaction of youngsters will be to focus on the heart shapes in each collage-style illustration and to react to how, with a few snips and artful positioning, Hall creates the essence of each animal from just one basic shape, very much in the manner of Lois Ehlert's wonderful die-cut and color-blocked book, Color Zoo. Proving that his book is not mere eye candy, Hall adds an appealing appendix to the book which encourages number-loving kids to count the hearts in each illustration and even total them up ("over 300," promises the author).
To this celebration of shape, Hall also brings a brief language lesson in the use of similes, exploring feelings of the heart tied to well-known animals, as in "...quiet as a caterpillar wearing knitted socks." The book closes with a comfy kid, cozily sleeping while his zoo of heart-shaped animals keep watch from the shelf above his bed, making this warm and reassuring offering a good choice for both sleepy time and an exciting stimulus for classroom art and language and math activities.
HarperCollins rolls out the red carpet for this one with a delightfully animated trailer backed up by a toe-tapping tune, to be seen here:
Readers will definitely *heart* this brand-new delight, for Valentine's Day and all year round. A great introduction to the creative work of a very promising new author/illustrator!