At this time First Second Books is probably best known for their superhero origin story, The Shadow Hero, but they also offer a wide variety of all-ages comics to appeal to parents with children, children themselves, and those comic book readers who are young at heart. Ariel Cohn and Aron Nels Steinke’s The Zoo Box nicely fits these readers, although I think the story is more fun for adults to share with children than read alone.
Erika and Patrick are staying home alone while their parents go out for the night, and if they behave themselves (brush their teeth and go to bed before their parents get home), they’ll visit the zoo the next day! The two kids rush up to the attic to play dress up in animal costumes (We don’t have real attics in TX, so I am envious of their fancy attic.), and they discover a mysterious box that says, “Do Not Open.” Of course, the kids have to figure out what’s inside, and the resulting hijinks make them nearly miss out on that reward for good behavior.
The Zoo Box is a simple story that opens children’s minds up to the wonders of imagination. Any box can become a source for incredible fantasy after seeing Erika and Patrick’s adventure with the stuff in the attic. (Hopefully, the story won’t inspire too many kids to become obsessed with playing in the attic.) As an adult reading the story alone, it wasn’t quite as magical and even had a bit of a Planet of the Apes feel in parts, but I could anticipate how the tale would grab children’s attention and make the world a little more exciting. Besides, we all remember the worry of being caught awake by our parents as kids but having to continue our game, book, or other type of nightly adventure because there was something we might miss.
Steinke’s artwork for The Zoo Box charmed me out the gate with its cartoony style and appealing colors. Erika and Patrick’s world isn’t overly detailed, but the soft palette helped my eyes to flow across each page and tie the world together. It vaguely reminded me of some long ago children’s book, but, unfortunately, the title doesn’t spring to mind. I thought it was perfect for the two kids’ adventures in a topsy turvy world.
Overall, I think that The Zoo Box would best be enjoyed by sharing it with a child to introduce him or her to the magic of comics; however, Erika and Patrick’s magical adventure can warm almost anyone’s heart, and it was an entertaining departure from my usual work day.
4.5 Escaping Ostriches out of 5