We gave it an A
Thanks to illustrator Valérie Michaut, At the Zoo, Paul Simon’s affable 1967 ditty about a visit to the zoo, has been transformed into a cheery romp of a picture book.
Simon’s song lyric, which forms the book’s text, is sweet and upbeat but sometimes a little mystifying, like a private joke. ”It’s a light and tumble journey from the East Side to the park,” he wrote. Okay. But ”giraffes are insincere”? Hamsters ”turn on frequently”?
Michaut wittily makes sense of this playful nonsense by inventing a visual story line to match and amplify the words. Her bustling illustrations show three children visiting New York City’s Central Park Zoo, determined to take a stuffed animal to comfort a lonely polar bear. The ”honest” monkeys show the children the right path to take to the bear’s lair, those typically ’60s ”turned-on” hamsters light the way by turning on the miners’ lamps on their helmets, and the zookeeper, who, according to Simon’s song, ”is very fond of rum,” is seen in Michaut’s innocent pictures to be dotingly fond of a beaver named Rum.
Adults will chortle over Michaut’s deft visual interpretations of Simon’s lyrics, kids will love to piece together the plot from the charmingly event-crammed pictures, and there’s a bonus: Simon intends to donate his royalties to his Children’s Health Fund, which sends medical vans to treat New York’s homeless kids. A