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3.9 out of 5 stars
The Midnight Zoo
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
TOP 50 REVIEWERon 25 December 2011
The story is set in Eastern Europe during World War 2. Two Romani gypsy children, carrying a baby in their backpack, have been on the run for weeks after soldiers ambushed their settlement. Fearing for their lives, they travel under the cover of darkness, scrounging food where they can. One night they arrive in a bombed out village, deserted apart from a few animals trapped in a zoo. Over the course of the night, both the boys and the animals will share their stories of how the war has affected them and also the inhabitants of the now-deserted village.

This is officially a young adult book, but the language and themes are quite adult and therefore it would suit older readers. It's a moving story and beautifully written - one of those books where you find yourself re-reading passages for the sheer pleasure of the words. For children, it introduces concepts such as the persecution of the Romani people during World War 2 and the impact of war on innocent bystanders. It is more fantastical and less plot driven than a book like The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, but would probably appeal to a similar audience. I also found it reminiscent of Yann Martel's writing. A slim, but magical book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 21 May 2012
Alison for Big Book Little Book

I really struggled with this book. Had it not been on the Carnegie shortlist I'm not sure I would have finished it. It took me three weeks to read, an incredibly long time for me, especially as at 192 pages this is a really short book. I'm not sure why I struggled so much. This is a beautifully written, thought provoking book, from a distance I can tell that it is incredibly well written. That, however, I think may be the problem, I view this book from a distance. All through the book I felt emotionally detached; I didn't `feel' the storyline or the characters. I kept waiting for it to suddenly click, but it never did. It shouldn't be a problem with the writing, this is a book that has been crafted rather than written so I'm assuming it's the subject matter. I am not an animal lover so maybe it is that. I also found the idea of two young boys, at the ages of 10 and 12, looking after a baby fairly unbelievable. But then this may well appeal to the intended audience and after all this is a book where animals can talk so is based it a world out of the realms of the ordinary anyway.

The story does have a magical, almost dreamlike quality and this is highlighted by the very simple but beautiful illustrations. The copy that I read was in hardback (another thing I usually dislike!) but I can't imagine how this would translate to a paperback. I'm assuming the publishers feel the same given the time lapse between the publication of the hardback and now. Visually this is a stunningly striking book.

Verdict: Beautifully written and visually stunning. A magical, dreamlike story that I just didn't quite connect with emotionally.
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Having read Hartnett's book, The Silver Donkey and enjoyed it, I pounced on The Midnight Zoo when I found it in our local library. I thought it was beautifully written, and although the language is simple, the ideas they describe and the emotions the words provoke in the reader are not. It is a tale of three Romany children, separated from their parents in WWII, and how they are roaming the countryside, simply trying to survive. The weight of responsibility weighs heavily on the oldest boy, Andrej, and his difficulties are crystallised when the children end up taking shelter in an abandoned zoo one night. The book gets rather mystical here, as the children find that they can communicate with the caged animals, and every creature shares their story of capture and their experience of the war, and their dreams of release.

This is not an easy book to read, not because it is not simple, but because it is profound and requires a lot of thought to really appreciate it for what it is. I recommend it for fourteens and up.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 9 May 2012
I found this novel truly amazing and im not surprised it has been put forward for an award! read this book, dont judge a book by is cover, literally! 9/10
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on 17 February 2013
Was a good holiday read and quite thought provoking. A nice change, original story and likeable characters. I recommend it
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on 21 December 2013
This is an unusual story - it's one that I enjoyed even though it was not a particularly happy tale.
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Such a lovely story.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 4 June 2012
I forced myself to finish this book because it is on the Carnegie shortlist. I didn't enjoy it, although it had a good moral meaning at heart. Description is vital for a realistic and imaginative story, but I think this one had a bit too much. There was no real climax, and it lacked any action to bring the story to life. I think written in a more adult way may be more appealing, as I felt it was a childish book, probably due to the illustrations. So, althought the story was good, the way it was written didn't do it for me.
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