The Beauty Contest at the Zoo by Kevin Price

(9.6/10)

What can the animals play before the zoo opens? Maisie knows - they'll have a beauty contest. But how will each animal persuade her that they should win? And which one will she choose?

Since my daughter was born five years ago I have become something of a connoisseur of children's rhyming story books (or so I have led myself to believe). Together we must have read well over a hundred, ranging for the classics of Dr Seuss right up to the modern day delights of Julia Donaldson (we must have at least a dozen of hers, like, I would imagine, at least 99% of all parents).

And now Kevin Price's The Beauty Contest at the Zoo sits proudly alongside books such as Green Eggs and Ham and The Gruffalo, such is its popularity with my daughter. Last night, when I opened the book to read at bedtime her first words were, "Oh, I love this book!", followed by "What is that monkey doing!?!?". She loves it, and when I asked her to tell me what her favourite thing in the book was, I expected her to say the ostrich, or the lion, but she simply said, "Maisie".

This entertaining rhyming story features an array of unique animals brought beautifully to life by the illustrations of Vicky Fieldhouse and it is a real book to treasure. An added bonus is that each sale of the book supports the work of the World Land Trust*, which strives to maintain safe habitats for animals in the wild.

I also greatly enjoyed reading this book as a parent. Amongst my favourite things are the naughty little hyaenas scribbling on the book's opening pages (this was particularly funny for my daughter as it is what her two year old brother is constantly getting in trouble for doing) and the ostrich, whose wide eyed illustration is fantastic. Here are the rhyming words that accompany the ostrich illustration:

The Ostrich shrieked, “Look at my gorgeous eyes,
If I didn’t win, it would be a surprise!”

“Oh please,” scoffed Hyaena, “that’s dopey and dumb,
All we usually see of you is your bum!”
He rolled on the ground and he started to giggle;
Ostrich buried her head and her tail gave a wiggle.

The end of the book features a wonderful little poem written by Viv Burton of World Land Trust and neatly encapsulates what The Beauty Contest at the Zoo is all about:

Sir David Attenborough supports out Trust;
He thinks it’s important and feels that we must
Save land for the animals while there’s still time;
To lose them would be a terrible crime.

The Beauty Contest would make a perfect Christmas present for a child aged between four and nine. And now I can now tell the difference between a cheetah and a leopard… Highly recommended, a lovely children's rhyming book that supports a worthy cause while educating your child.

--

* The World Land Trust was established in 1989 to protect critically threatened habitats for their wildlife. So far over 500,000 acres have been saved throughout the world and are now protected by local organisations as nature reserves. All donations resulting from the sale of this book will be used by World Land Trust’s overseas project partners to fund park rangers  who ensure that the reserves remain safe for animals in the wild. For more information, visit www.worldlandtrust.org

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