You look at the post title and you think that there are a thousand books I could be reviewing. But it's none of them--the thing I did for love was read this entire book from start to finish. Because my six-year-old son loved it.
He didn't just love The Secret Zoo; he got it--he understood what was going on, could always recount what had already happened and connect it to what was happening now. He liked the corny names of the zoo places, he didn't mind the fact that most of the middle is nonsensical filler--the bad guys you perceive are not bad, there's a whole meaningless chase scene that's some sort of misunderstanding.
This is the kind of book that people mean when they say that kids deserve smart books--I mean, this is the cautionary tale part of it. And you know, it's probably a third grade reading level or something like that. But the language is just awkward and repetitive. Thesaurus words are tucked in where their connotations are not quite right. It's not explicitly wrong, but it's just not quite good.
Also, the day is saved at the end when our hero convinces a penguin to believe in itself enough to fly. Flying penguin saves the day. Because physics has nothing to do with it. (Yes, there is explicitly magic involved in the book. But not around the animals or their abilities. Somehow the animals are just super smart, the polar bear is not dangerous, and penguins can fly if they believe in themselves. All apparently unrelated to magic.)
I'm groaning only because Adam's too little to know how a blog works, or to read this. Because I know that it's possible to love books that are not great--I have read WAY too much Mercedes Lackey not to know this. And I love him so much that I'm going to run right out and get the sequel, Secrets and Shadows, because he'll be thrilled.
But maybe not till after we've read the first Harry Potter.