Dear Zoo: pets are not one-size-fits-all, it's all about finding a match

by Rod Campbell - Penguin Books Ltd, 1989
ages 0 to 5 years old / funny

Ivy (23 months) read me her first book last week, it was a well-loved copy of Dear Zoo.

We were sitting on the floor and she ran up to me book in hand, so I asked if she'd like me to read it to her. To which she replied “No, I read." She plopped herself down, opened the book and started:

‘What will be next? Elephant!’ (insert elephant noise here!).
‘What will be next? Raff!’ (Giraffe) (apparently Giraffes growl :))
‘What will be next? Camel!’ (which is her favourite)

All the way to the end which consisted of – ‘A Puppy! Hooray!’

It was a very endearing and comforting moment. Dear Zoo was one of my favourite books as a child (because I wished the zoo would send me all those pets!). 

It's the first book I remember reading all on my own and it was a favourite of my husband's when he was little. So it was special for both of us that it is our daughter's first ‘read’.

Ivy is a whirlwind, she doesn’t stop - and getting her to sit still long enough to read a whole book is a very rare occurrence. So it's also comforting to see that the snippets of time we spend reading still do have an impact. She's loving and learning from all the stories we share, doing it in her own way and in her own time.

Dear Zoo is a fabulous book for the 0 to 5-year-old set: 

The easy-to-read, simple, repetitive phrases make it a great early reader (all those animal names and adjectives).

There's always an element of  surprise, no matter how many times they read it (because maybe this time it might be different!).

It’s great fun to dream and discuss what life would be like with an unusual pet!

It's a cuddle-up opener for talking about things like:     

What animal would you want the zoo to send to you?
How would you take care of --- if you had one as a pet?
Responsibilities of pet care – dedication and work involved.
The many different words that can describe each animal.

And here are a few activities you might like, they're simple and good fun:

Play Charades – with two blocks. On each face of one block write animal names, then emotions like scared, angry, happy etc on the other.

Roll both blocks like dice and act out the result – like scared elephant, happy tiger etc. You can read more over on Craftionary

Create a ‘zoo’ with all your toys. Have your child/children take you on a tour explain about each animals habitat, behaviour etc (can lead to more in-depth researching with younger children).

Cut out pictures of animals from old magazines and make your own ‘zoo’

There are several versions of Dear Zoo (ours is the lift-the-flap one) and, if you buy it, I hope you have as much fun with it as Ivy and I do!

Amazon - Book Depository - Booktopia.

Book Depository has free postage anywhere in the world and great pricing, but Amazon might be cheaper for North American readers.