'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Thursday 12 August 2010

Review: Trouble at the Zoo

Okay, I’ll admit it – I opened this Bindi series wearing a skeptic's hat. Despite her instant likability and personal authenticity, the Bindi Irwin brand has certainly been in danger of slipping into schmaltzy mass-marketability and some would argue it’s already there. But for those who’ve actually taken the time to plunge into the ecologically sound Irwin morass to experience it first hand, few would argue that the stuff being pumped out of the Bindi factory is actually good. It may not be your cup of tea, but it is good.

Her television shows are actually brilliant – this young girl is supremely talented, effusive and passionate (just like a certain father, lost far too soon) – so it would stand to reason her books would also be well done.

Bindi’s new Wildlife Adventure books are a series of readers designed for six to eight year olds. Trouble at the Zoo follows Bindi’s extravagant birthday party at Australia Zoo – and the shenanigans of a young boy visiting the zoo (who coincidentally shares the same birthday as Bindi) and his desire to take home a precious water dragon. Of course, he’s found out and Bindi handles the entire thing with consummate kindness and ease.

Following a tried and true reader formula of conflict and resolve, the book ticks all the boxes and kids will thoroughly enjoy the menagerie of animals that make their way into Bindi’s home and of course, that meander around the zoo.

The best thing about this book, though, is that it’s actually really nicely written. Emotive, visually evocative, relationship-focused and just plain fun (who wouldn’t want to go to Australia Zoo dressed as a sea creature?).

Capitalising fully on the Bindi name, there is no sign of author credit until the title page (this book is written by Chris Kunz – well done Chris!) along with Bindi herself, though I’m not sure how much of Bindi’s actual writing has gone into the book – it would be great to know how much, though I suspect her contribution would involve plotline ideas, based on this young girl’s remarkable life. If this is the case, there’ll certainly be plenty of amazing adventures to be had in this new chapter book series.

Fresh, fun, well written and certain to get kids reading, another important observation about this series is that Steve Irwin’s superlative legacy, no matter how be-Disneyed it’s become, is still being kept alive – something this extraordinary man would be thrilled about.

I tip my skeptic hat.

Title: Bindi Wildlife Adventures: Trouble at the Zoo
Author: Chris Kunz with Bindi Irwin
Publisher: Random House, $9.95RRP
Format: Soft cover
ISBN: 9781864719963
For ages: 6-8
Type: Chapter Book