FraidyZoo is the fantastic debut picture book from author and illustrator Thyra Heder. Heder's story is a simple but universal one - a child with a fear. What the fear is and how it is resolved are what make FraidyZoo such a standout.
When big sister wakes up Little T with the news that it's a perfect day for the zoo, Little T looks less than happy. In fact, she's downright stricken, especially since she can't quite articulate what it is about the zoo that she's afraid of. Here's where the the twist that makes this book so special comes in. Little T's family won't go to the zoo until they figure out just what it is Little T is afraid of. To get to the bottom of her fear, they proceed to act out the various zoo animals, alphabetically, no less, coming up with increasingly creative uses for household items, recyclables and more, in an effort to help Little T and get to the zoo.
Heder does not name the animals in the story (although the amazing endpapers of FraidyZoo are a bulletin board of items and pictures, all labeled, presenting all the animals from the book) but mom, dad and big sister offer up clues. While this makes the book even more fun because the reader gets to guess along with Little T, I absolutely love the fact that it feels like Little T's family is honoring the possibility that she may not know the actual name for the animal that she's scared of, but she probably knows what it looks like, how it acts or where it might live. I remember vividly times with all three of my children when they were newly verbal and they broke down in tears because they didn't know the word for what they wanted, then I upset them even further by trying to drag it out of them. Heder's solution to this dilemma is such a lovely way around that verbal roadblock!
Also, this is one super-creative family and FraidyZoo is filled to the brim with amazing ideas for costumes and creations, all of which are charmingly, realistically, lovingly illustrated in ink and watercolors. A jellyfish is an umbrella covered in bubble wrap trailing pink streamers, an old umbrella becomes bat wings and sleeping bags become worms. My favorite, though, are the costumes made from raiding the recycling bin. Pasta and cereal boxes, packing boxes, toilet paper rolls, newspaper and more become a rhinoceros, a dinosaur, a snake and a zebra. Best of all, Heder knows of what she paints, as her tumblr can attest, below:
If you get the chance to meet Thyra at a book signing, I hear she plans to bring along some of her cardboard animal creations! Oh yeah, and another really superb thing about FraidyZoo is the ending! What Little T is afraid of and how the family responds is almost as fun as everything they do to get to the zoo in the first place! And one final thing, FraidyZoo is printed on eco-friendly, FSC certified paper.
Source: Review Copy