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‘If I Ran the Zoo’ A 1951 Caldecott Honor Title

It seems fitting that we look at a Caldecott Honor title on the day that the American Library Association committees announce their 2012 award winners. If I Ran the Zoo was the recipient of a 1951 Caldecott Honor Award. How does Dr. Seuss hold up 61 years later? You may be surprised. Read on.

Title: If I Ran the Zoo
Author: Dr. Seuss
Narrated by: Katie Leigh
Developed by: Oceanhouse Media, Inc.
Coypyright: Dr. Seuss Properties and Dr. Seuss Enterprises, LP
Platform: iOS, requires 3.0 or later; Android, requires 2.1 & Up; Nook
Version: iOS 1.08.1; Android & Nook 1.23
Price: $2.99 for iOS; 3.99 for Android; $4.99 for Nook

PreS-Gr 1-White pages filled with fantastical creatures in pen-and-ink and bold splashes of color garnered Theodor Geisel a 1951 Caldecott Honor Award for If I Ran the Zoo (Random, 1950) 61 years ago. On the iPad, those colors appear even brighter, and Geisel’s lines even sharper. This production features a lively narration by Katie Leigh.

On Auto Play the app runs 15 minutes, time enough for young Gerald McGrew to release a zoo full of “old-fashioned” animals and restock it with “beasts of more un-usual kind.” Exotic animalsten-footed lions, Elephant-Cats, Joats, Lunks, Chuggsand so many more that he builds “a zoo better than Noah’s whole ark!”

Gerald’s travels to locate these strange creatures take him far and wideto the mountains “of Zomba-ma-Tant/With helpers who all/wear their eyes at a slant” to capture a “bird called the Bustard/Who only eats custard with sauce made of mustard.” Unfortunately, this reference to people “who wear their eyes at a slant” won’t cut the mustard with modern audiences. The image that accompanies these lines, as well as a depiction of two caricatured figures carrying a “tizzle-topped Tufted Masurka” from the “African island of Yerka,” will also offend today’s viewers.–Daryl Grabarek, School Library Journal