• Happy birthday Emily Arnold McCully (Mirette on the High Wire) and Diane Hoyt-Goldsmith (Cinco De Mayo: Celebrating the Traditions of Mexico).
  • Best birthday wishes also go to choreographer Twyla Tharp. Read To Dance: A Ballerina’s Graphic Novel by Siena Cherson Siegel and Mark Siegel.
  • It’s the birth date of French aviator Louis BlĂ©riot (1872-1936). Read The Glorious Flight: Across the Channel with Louise BlĂ©riot by Alice and Martin Provensen.
  • It’s the birthday of the zip code, inaugurated in 1963. Hence, it’s Zip Code Day. Read Zip by Bruce Brooks and The Unbreakable Code by Sara Hunter, illustrated by Julia Miner.

On July 1, 1874, the first zoo in the United States opened its doors to visitors in Philadelphia. A quarter for adults and a dime for children allowed visitors to view 813 animals housed there. Three thousand people traveled by foot, horse and buggy, or steamboat to look at the wonders.

Thousands of books about zoos or zoo animals have been published for children since 1874, but if I had only one of them to pack in a trunk and take to an island, it would be an easy choice for me. Admittedly, I’d need a big trunk; the oversized volume stands almost a foot and a half tall. From the minute you spot its reddish-orange cover across the room, Zoo-ology begs to be opened. Joëlle Jolivet, a brilliant French illustrator, crafted the art. Emmanuelle Grundmann, Zoology Consultant of the French National Museum of Natural History, provides fabulous notes.

Every double spread features animals, insects, fish, or amphibians, grouped sometimes by climate (hot, cold), by form (feathered, horned), habitat (in the seas, in the trees, underground), or color (black and white, spots and stripes). All have their name close to their images, except for the chameleon that moves from page to page and changes color. Children love finding him in each double-page spread as he ambles through the book. Each page has been so imaginatively constructed that you can spend hours studying the creatures and testing your knowledge of zoology. After your eyes have feasted on the book, you can go to the endnotes. Here we learn that the beluga whale was once called the “canary of the sea” because of its song or that the civet’s liquid for marking its territory is used in making perfume. Each sentence contains a fascinating fact, conveyed in minimal words.

If I were decorating an elementary school classroom, I’d buy a few copies and use the spreads as posters. These images also serve as models of graphic design but also inspire students artistically. In short, whether at school or as a beloved treasure at home, this is a book that I wish every child in the United States, even preschoolers, could pick up. Not only does it make readers want to quickly head to a zoo, but it also encourages its viewers to research a creature that has caught his or her fancy.

So happy birthday, Philadelphia Zoo. I can’t get there today for a visit—but I will do the next best thing and pick up Zoo-ology one more time.

Here’s a page from Zoo-ology:


Originally posted July 1, 2011. Updated for .

Tags: Art, Nature, Science, Zoology
Instructional materials from TeachingBooks.net for Zoo-ology


  1. suzi w. says:

    ooh, this looks really fun!!

  2. Caren R. says:

    This book looks amazing! I have never heard/seen it before, but now I am excited to go find it. What’s funny is I am going to the zoo tomorrow with my little cousin (thanks to library passes), so maybe we will try to find the book on the shelf when we return. She loves animals so I am sure she will love this book.

  3. lisa b.h. says:

    I am immediately drawn to this book by the bold cover design and stunning illustrations.The illustrations are both modern and retro all at once, they make me think of early wood cuts. Most importantly, I already know who must have a copy, my one year old great niece who visits the zoo in Chicago nearly every week!

  4. Jory Hearst says:

    I’ve been away for almost a month, and my first day back to normal life in Cambridge is to such an incredible book! I love Jolivet’s work — her illustrations/linocuts are always beautiful and her style so distinct. I’ve missed this blog, but felt like I was welcomed back to the US well with this choice. Thanks Anita!

  5. Anita says:

    Jory: Welcome back; great to see you here again.

  6. G.Perry says:

    Well, my library has one copy of it, and it’s unavailable.

    Nothing to do but buy it.

    I love critters!

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