The Mid­night Zoo

Sonya Hart­nett; Andrea Offer­man, illus.
  • Review
By – January 10, 2012
When their Romany camp is attacked, twelve-year-old Andrej, nine-year-old­Tomas, and their baby sis­ter, Wilma, hide in the woods. After every­one else is either shot and kille­dor tak­en away, the three chil­dren must sur­vive on their own. They come upon a small zoo that has fal­l­en­in­to dis­re­pair and dis­cov­er that they can com­mu­ni­cate with the ani­maloc­cu­pants. The ani­mals share their sus­pi­cionsof each oth­er and their under­stand­ing of what free­dom means. Hart­nett man­ages to give each of the ani­mal­sa dis­tinct per­son­al­i­ty. She drawsread­ers in, help­ing them under­stand the ani­mals’ plight; they are locked intheir cages and, with­out their care­tak­er, they are starv­ing. They tell the chil­dren about the girl whoused to care for them and long for her return. While an adult read­er will rec­og­nize the set­ting as World War II Europe, the key­words a read­er in the novel’s tar­get age range might rec­og­nize asHolo­caust-relat­ed are all absent, and much of the book is told from the per­spec­tive of ani­mals, not peo­ple. Jew­ish expe­ri­ence dur­ing the war isn’tmentioned at all and a young read­er wouldn’t nec­es­sar­i­ly make the­con­nec­tions. Guid­ed read­ing or dis­cus­sion­with a par­ent or teacher would be valu­able in help­ing read­ers get the most out­of The Mid­night Zoo. Rec­om­mend­ed for ages 11 – 14.
Mar­ci Lavine Bloch earned her MLS from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Mary­land, a BA from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Penn­syl­va­nia and an MA in Eng­lish Lit­er­a­ture from Ford­ham Uni­ver­si­ty. She has worked in syn­a­gogue and day school libraries and is cur­rent­ly fin­ish­ing her term on the Syd­ney Tay­lor Book Award Committee.

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