Once again, John Burningham gives us a brilliant picture book that perfectly captures the imagination and internal life of a child. The Way to the Zoo hits the shelves as the 50th anniversary of Chitty Chitty Ban Bang is being celebrated, marking an amazingly long and fruitful career that I hope will continue on.
In The Way to the Zoo we meet Sylvie, who, just before she falls asleep, discovers a door in the wall of her bedroom that wasn't there before. She decides to take a look at in in the morning, but she is late for school and forgets about it until it's time for bed. When she finally gets around to investigating, she discovers a ong corridor that leads to a heavy door that leads to the zoo!
Sylvie invites a little bear to come back with her and sleep in her bed. The next night, it's a koala bear and a little bear. All the animals want to come to Sylvie's room, but she only brings the small ones, much to the sadness of the elephant, who bursts into tears. But one day, Sylvie forgets to close the door before leaving for school and she comes home to a house full of animals. Sylvie gets very upset and sends the animals home then spends the rest of the afternoon cleaning. But, her mother still comes home and tells her that it "looks like you had the whole zoo in here!"
Burningham is brilliant because he's so matter-of-fact with his storytelling. As the Kirkus review so eloquently put it, "Burningham's appeal lies in his ability to invent a fantasy scenario available only to young children, accomplishing it again here with consummate grace."