Sleepover Zoo

Written by Brenda Kearns

SleepoverZoo,pic

This book tells the tale of a sixth-grader named Toni who has just moved into the town of Renforth. Her parents are animal lovers; they work for the animal shelter. They don’t stop with their day job. At home the family takes care of injured wild birds until they are recovered and able to be set free. This makes for a somewhat extraordinary household! Toni has made a new friend named Megan at school, but the rest of the girls find it strange that bird seeds coming flying out of Toni’s lunch box. One of the girls named Leona presses Toni to come over for a sleepover; Toni hopes that her parents will say no. How can she possibly describe their house? There are mice in the freezer, a macaw named Mortimer that drinks coffee and eats pizza, a snake, and a cat named Avery that steals food from your dinner plate. I think you get the picture. Toni’s teenage brother Bruno friends tells her not to worry, but Toni is dreading the visit.

That visit does not start out auspiciously. Leona is knocked down by their dog, Duke, who promptly chews up her scrungy, knots her hair and messes up her dress. Leona can’t believe the chaos that these animals present. When they hear a scream in the bathroom, Bruno realizes that the goose in the bathtub feels threatened by the stranger. Toni’s parents try to make their guest comfortable by surprising the girls with pizza and ice cream, which they never serve. Will Leona run away and tell everyone at school that Leona lives in a “crazy house” or will she learn that every family is different and that being different is not necessarily a bad thing?

This book contains just the right amount of humor and absurdity to appeal to middle grade students so desperate to fit in. The characters are well developed, the chapters are short, the text is not overly difficult. For this reason, the book makes an excellent chapter book appropriate for a reluctant reader. If the book contained more pictures, it would have appeal for younger children. Older readers will enjoy the story as well because it rings genuine and true to life. The book teaches us that everyone does not have to conform to the mold; our community benefits from diversity.

If you enjoyed this post, please subscribe by clicking on the word Follow or by hitting the orange RSS Feed button in the upper right hand corner of this page.