Candlewick Press, $16.99, 227 pages
In the midst of WWII brothers Andrej and Tomas are on their own in an unnamed country after a German attack on their Gypsy encampment. Clutching their infant sister and a few bits of food, they wander into a deserted town. While searching for shelter and more food, Andrej discovers an abandoned zoo filled with caged animals. But these are not dumb creatures. From the llama to the monkey to the wolf, these animals can talk. As the children bond with their new friends truths about humans and animals are exposed and explored. Some of the animals have a story to tell. The female lion has lost her mate and cubs. An angry boar narrates a tale of human greed and cruelty. These stories allow Andrej and Tomas to finally relive and accept what happened to their parents, relatives and friends. Hartnett stumbles into maudlin territory from time to time, an unnecessary journey given the subject matter. For this reason The Midnight Zoo is best for readers over the age of 12. It is not a book for the sensitive child due to the poignant treatise on war and human conflict.
Ellison G. Weist