Monday, September 30, 2013

My Heart Is Like a Zoo by Michael Hall (2010)

This is another picture book Goodreads "told" me to read, and I'm torn.  I like the premise actually - the copyright page on this one does as good a job as I could in describing what the book is about:  "Depicts in rhyming text how love can be many different things, such as eager as a beaver, steady as a yak, or silly as a seal."  It's like a love poem to love.  All the animals in the book - bull, hornet, penguin, fox, etc. - are all highly stylized  modern art collages made of hearts, sort of like if Modrian was illustrating a picture book and used all heart shapes to create his animals.  It is a clever concept, comparing love to various animals, like John Donne and Dr. Seuss wrote a poem together.  But maybe just a little too cutesy cute for my taste.  Perfect for Valentine's Day, though.  That's what I mean by torn.   My Heart is a Zoo belongs on the same shelf as Guess How Much I Love You and other books about emotions and feelings and love; they are usually not my favorite style of book.  I can appreciate them, I can understand why they exist, but I don't really enjoy them.  Picture books about mothers and fathers tend to end up on that shelf too.   Love You Forever , which definitely sits on that shelf, is an exception to my indifference to these books.   I can't say I like this book, but it has sentimental value which always counts for something with me.  Always.  These kinds of books tend to pick themselves up and smack you over the head with their sentiment (love, or else; although the "or else" is never made clear).  My Heart Is A Zoo does that, only with a cuter concept than most.

My Heart Is Like a ZooMy Heart Is Like a Zoo by Michael Hall
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I'm really torn here.  The premise of this book is quite clever, a poem comparing love to different kinds of animals - eager as a beaver, steady as a yak, angry as a bear (why bears should be singled out as angry, I'm not sure). It's sort of like John Donne and Dr. Seuss got together and wrote a poem (in writer's heaven, I guess, considering they are both dead).  The illustrations are brightly colored heart shapes, done in a collage to create the different animals, very modern art (a "heartist" rather than a cubist).  That said, it's very cutesy.  I understand why books like this, and Guess How Much I Love You and Todd Parr's multiple books about love and family and emotions exist, I understand why people like them.  But I always feel like the books pick themselves up and smack you over the head with themselves.  Love, or else (the "or else" is never quite made clear, a very veiled threat).  The king of this type of book is Love You Forever which is both adored and despised (like Lady Gaga or the Tea Party).  My Heart Is Like A Zoo sits on the same shelf as these types of books, but I think its saved from causing the reader diabetic shock by the clever conceit and the interesting art.

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