Fraidyzoo by Thyra Heder

Little T has some misgivings about going to the zoo — hence the title Fraidyzoo — but the trouble is, she can’t remember what exactly she’s afraid of. Unlike most parents who will probably give the child some words of reassurance and convince her to join in, Little T’s family approaches the problem somewhat differently…

In fact, we are all treated to a virtuoso display of creativity and imagination as her fabulously sporting family rallies together to help her remember by making and dressing up in a series of animal-inspired costumes and asking her to guess what they are with the help of a verbal clue. Readers, too, won’t be able to resist playing along, especially when it’s clear that the answers are in alphabetical order. (Although, they eventually end up with 25, not 26, different animals.)

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The costumes themselves range from simple to jaw-droppingly elaborate, and are made using an amazing assortment of household objects and craft materials that are discernible by eye, thanks to the beautifully detailed illustrations. These include cardboard cartons, plastic milk bottles, crepe paper, books, kitchen tongs, towels, hangers, plastic bags, umbrellas… basically anything and everything that you can imagine — and more. (The author has even created some of them herself just to ensure that they are, in fact, feasible; so you could, if you were feeling particularly crafty and gung-ho, really make the costumes yourself!)

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It’s also commendable to note that the author has ‘kept things real’ by not shying away from showing the inevitable mess that such a massive project would create, nor alluding to the sheer amount of time needed to make everything (the last costume is completed just in time for the children’s bedtime), rather than conveniently omitting such factual constrictions.

But the most wonderful thing is, the love and camaraderie that Little T and her family embody come across as genuine and heartwarming, rather than simply the result of a clever plot device. If you’re wondering, yes, they do make it to the zoo in the end… Well, kinda anyway till they find out the real reason for Little T’s fear of the zoo ;)

p.s. In case you have trouble guessing the animals, the author has thoughtfully included a subtle answer key in the book’s endpapers.

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