by Judy Sierra, illustrated by Marc Brown. Alfred A. Knopf, 2004.
The story behind the book
The idea for this book came from a poster I saw in a library. On the poster was a painting of animals happily reading books. I wondered how those animals learned to read. Wouldn't that make a great story? I jotted down this idea in my notebook. It took me several years to come up with the perfect storyline. One morning, as I sat in my writing chair, a little cartoon image popped into my head: A librarian drives the bookmobile to the zoo by mistake, and she uses the same skill and charm that work so well on children to turn the animals into readers. I began writing down the names of my favorite zoo animals, along with ideas about what books they could be reading, and where they might be reading. I collected book titles and book types and names of animals that rhymed. The poem didn't really take off, though, until those Tasmanian devils began writing their own books (another idea that just popped into my head), making it absolutely necessary that everyone build a Zoobrary at the end of the book
Some little-known facts about Wild About Books:
The bookmobile that Molly McGrew drives looks almost exactly like one that I worked on in Los Angeles. It was a tiny and delightful near-antique that had bookshelves on the outside as well as on the inside. When Marc Brown began making sketches for the book, he e-mailed to ask if I had a good photograph of a bookmobile. I contacted the Los Angeles Public Library, and they were nice enough to send me one for him to use.
Three of the scorpion's stinging reviews of the bugs' haiku are double-entendres—words that have more than one meaning, and that can be taken two different ways in the story. The scorpion thinks that the millipede's haiku is boring, for example, and the millipede is boring through the apple.
The book was published on the 100th anniversary of Dr. Seuss's birth, and is dedicated to him. The editor of Wild About Books, Janet Schulman, was Dr. Seuss's editor and colleague at Random House. Can you spot three references to Dr. Seuss in Wild About Books? (Find the answer at the bottom of this page.)
Awards, Prizes, Reviews...
A New York Times #1 Children's Bestseller.
Association of Booksellers for Children's E.B. White Read-Aloud Award
Bank Street College of Education's Irma Simonton Black Honor Book
American Library Association Notable Book
Mom's Choice Platinum Award
National Parenting Publications Gold Award
From the Reviews:
"Sierra's text has a wacky verve and enough clever asides and allusions to familiar characters to satisfy bibliophiles of all ages. The author's sense of playfulness in plot and language ("llamas read while eating their llunches"; a hippo wins the "Zoolitzer Prize") creates a lavish literary stew. Comic moments abound, including bugs writing haiku and unruly bears licking illustrations right off the page (until Molly gently teaches them how to treat books properly). Brown's cheerful, full-color illustrations stretch his trademark art with ever-so-slightly stylized spreads that are rich in pattern, texture, and nuance. On each spread, he plays with perspective and layout to create an electric sense of excitement as the animals discover what kids have known for a long time–reading is fun!" —School Library Journal (starred review)
"Many picture-book authors who try their hands at rhyme have less-than-stellar results. Here, the best part of the book is Sierra's handy way with a rhyming text that not only scans properly but also is both clever and full of images that will amuse children ("Tasmanian devils found books so exciting / That soon they had given up fighting for writing"). The wild animal goings-on offer illustrator Brown an opportunity to get away from his vaguely aardvarklike Arthur and create some real animals--in fact, about every animal one can think of. All the slaphappy art fits nicely into double-page spreads that allow the energetic action room to breathe. That's good because there are tons of things to look at, all in sunny colors. Not only are the animals reading books but they are also hugging them, licking the pictures off the pages, and trying their "hands" at writing. A wonderful advertisement for the joys of a literary life." —Booklist (starred review)
1. Molly McGrew is "the Springfield librarian." Dr. Seuss grew up in Springfield, Massachusetts, where his father was on the board of the city zoo.
2. Molly has the same last name as the hero of Dr. Seuss's If I Ran the Zoo, Gerald McGrew (which conveniently rhymes with "zoo").
3. At the beginning of the book, there is an illustration of Molly reading The Cat in the Hat to the zoo animals.