• Picture Book Snob

A Magnificent Menagerie

The Moonlight Zoo by Maudie Powell-Tuck and Karl James Mountford

The Moonlight Zoo is a stunning and soothing bedtime story. Set at night, in a magical realm under starlit skies, this has a calming, dreamlike quality. An atmospheric colour palette, dominated by shades of purple, blue and pink, changes as we move from dusk to dawn.

Clever cut-outs, offering glimpses of other pages, add to the appeal, but it's an attractive and intriguing story even without them.

A little girl called Eva is distraught when her cat, Luna, goes missing. After investigating strange noises coming from under her bed, Eva finds herself transported to The Moonlight Zoo. There she meets a friendly wolf who informs her that this is "a place for all lost animals" and helps Eva search for Luna.

Eva's wolf companion warns her that the zoo will close at sunrise, so they haven't much time. The wolf takes Eva on a spectacular tour through Penguin Palace, Monkey Island, Wolf Mountain, the Land of Elephants, the Reptile Room and Big Cat Kingdom. Along the way, we meet a variety of wild and wonderful creatures including narwhals, ice-cream eating polar bears, turtles, guinea pigs, monkeys, mice and exotic birds.

This is fantastic fuel for the imagination and I love how diverse and inclusive the story is too. Eva is a black, Asian or minority ethnic main character, of which there is a lack in contemporary children's books. Eva wears a hearing aid which I have not seen in a picture book before. In her bedroom are rockets, swords, robots and balls which challenge gender stereotypes.

The language is as beautiful as the images; lyrical and gentle with lots of alliteration - perfect for helping lull little readers to sleep. I love how Luna's purring is described more than once as rumbling like a rocket engine - it's so evocative and cosy. There's also a comforting message as it assures children that their missing pets are safe and well.

The Moonlight Zoo is written by Maudie Powell-Tuck and illustrated by Karl James Mountford. This is the talented team who created Last Stop on the Reindeer Express (which we also love) and The Space Train (which we hope to get soon). The publisher, Little Tiger, produces lots of amazing die-cut books for children.

We have In Every House on Every Street, This Love, The Twelve Days of Christmas, and Kindness Grows and as well as Last Stop on the Reindeer Express and The Moonlight Zoo by Little Tiger. I only realised recently that they were all by the same innovative publisher. These die-cut books are ideal gifts and fabulous works of art, as well as brilliant stories, and I hope to post reviews (and add to the collection!) soon.

The Moonlight Zoo is an excellent place to explore at a time when our movements are restricted. With incredibly detailed images, there is lots to discuss and notice on subsequent readings. Both of my children (3.5 and 5.5) have been mesmerised by this book for the last few weeks and I love it too.

See more die-cut books reviewed by Picture Book Snob

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See more books with black, Asian or minority ethnic main characters reviewed by Picture Book Snob

Title: The Moonlight Zoo

Author: Maudie Powell-Tuck

Illustrator: Karl James Mountford

ISBN: 9781788814034

Publisher: Little Tiger

Publication Date: Jan 2020 (hardback), October 2020 (paperback)

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