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Night Zookeeper: The Giraffes of Whispering Wood Paperback – 4 Jan 2018
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"Davidson perfectly balances imagination, pace, imagery (both literally and figuratively) and narrative for his target audience" (The Book Bag)
"This is a delightfully original and amusing story, with characters who feel contemporary in a classic adventure setting" (BookTrust)
"This is a brilliant book and my daughter loved reading it" - For more reviews visit https://toppsta.com/books/details/night-zookeeper-the-giraffes-of-whispering-wood (Toppsta)
Welcome to the world of the Night Zoo.
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The story tells the tale of Will Rivers. At the beginning he is taking part in a “school project, painting a giant mural on the wall of the local zoo”. His contribution is a purple elephant with a yellow “eternity symbol” on its forehead matching a tattoo his Grandma, who lives with them, has.
Will’s artistic efforts displease the teacher. He is forced to paint the elephant a more conventional grey. However, out of hours, Will decides he was right all along and returns to paint it back to purple complete with the eternity symbol.
On the night of his tenth birthday he is drawn back to the zoo wall and something magical happens. On the mural behind his elephant a gate opens. He enters and is taken into the land of the Night Zoo where he becomes the Night Zookeeper.
Upon entering the Night Zoo he finds himself in the Whispering Woods, where the newspaper trees write headlines about what is happening and pass them on to each other. He also meets a talking, spying giraffe called Sam who tells him that the giraffes are in danger from Voids, robots that look like giant spiders, and that he is the Night Zookeeper, the one who will save them all.
Then once Will has (spoiler alert) saved the giraffes, and the story ends with him departing to save other animals in need in another part of the zoo, this book being the first in the series with more to follow, there is a really interesting section to the book which encourages creativity and lets young people get their imaginations going. You’re asked to create your own magical animals and locations. There are few examples sent in by fans and prompts to help. There is a website, nightzookeeper.com, where the ideas are shared (creating a little community although the website would have been better if its design was consistent with the art style of the books). This is the sort of thing my daughters love (both within the 6-11 age group the website is aimed at), coming up with fun ideas and writing their own stories and adventures. I like this part of the book the best.
“Everyone told me my painting should be grey. But I made it purple and I was right. None of this would have happened if I’d done a boring, obvious elephant, would it?”
So let your imaginations run wild and get creating.
The synopsis is that on a school trip to the Zoo, Will is teased by his friend for painting a mural that is not realistic enough and playing 'make-believe' - aka using his imagination. He goes home feeling disheartened, but is inspired by his wacky grandmother (a very cool character!) and goes back to finish the painting as he likes, mysteriously opening up a portal to the world of the Night Zoo. It is a place filled with magical creatures who need Will's help. He is made the new Night Zookeeper, and goes on an adventure with his new friends to save them from the Voids (who oppose creativity and free thought). The premise of the story is Will learning to embrace his independence and imagination. Wonderful.
I'm not familiar with Night Zookeeper so don't know how this fits with the website or any other media, but as a standalone novel the cover is really appealing, and the internal artwork is excellently illustrated. My son is quite easily disturbed by overtly mature themes or spooky storylines, so I ordered this as an antidote to a series of new book choices that had missed the mark. It worked a treat. Sometimes, children want to read something wholesome and accessible, and some children like to read a story that's more innocent and unthreatening, as a means of escape. We'll definitely be getting more Night Zookeeper books.