We have had an eventful February, at least as far as the weather goes. As of yesterday, this month has officially broken snowfall records for Vermont February, which as you can imagine, is really saying something. We've had nearly four feet of snow this month so far. A good eight inches of this arrived last Friday, effectively cancelling our plans for the day and replacing them with a lot of shovelling. Luckily, we had made a trip to the library the day before and had picked up a good, large bag full of new reads. Included among them, the singularly fantastic Zoo-ology by Joelle Jolivet.
Zoo-Ology is an unusual book, in more ways than one. First of all, its size. The book stands about a foot and a half high, and when opened up and laid flat, the pages spread two feet wide. This makes for a wonderful lap book; it feels as though you are immersed in it when it's opened up in front of you. I also love that this book is designed for slow and thoughtful browsing. Zoo-ology is essentially a collection of illustrations of different animals, and each two-page spread depicts a selection of animals that have been grouped according to somewhat whimsical standards. There are animals that live underground, animals that live where it is hot, animals that are black and white. Grouping the animals according to a specific attribute, as opposed to more conventional means, produces pages where creatures that might otherwise never meet can sit side by side, and this makes for a really enjoyable display. And, finding animals that otherwise wouldn't share habitat sitting side by side encourages the reader to look long and slow at who is sitting where, and to think about why.
The illustrations themselves are really the star of Zoo-Ology. The final pages of the book contain bits of information about each of the animals, but this section is set aside from the rest of the book and is really not part of initial "reading" experience. The pictures of each animal are lino-cuts with boldly rendered lines and a limited color palette. The result is that they feel like art as much as information, and are especially interesting to look at. The book is visually stunning and truly unique; it caught our eye from across the room in the children's room at the library.
Despite its size, this book has been nearly everywhere with us over the last few days. Whenever we have braved the cold and snow to go grocery shopping or to music lessons, the book has come along for car time browsing. Always a sure sign of a really good read.