The Midnight Zoo (unabr.). 4 CDs. 4.33 hrs. Prod. by Bolinda Audio. Dist. by Brilliance Audio. 2011. ISBN 978-1-7428-5126-6. $49.97.
Gr 7–10-- Like a 20th-century version of Avi's Crispin, who fled across 14th-century England, 12-year-old Andrej is without parents and adrift in Europe during World War II with his younger brother, Tomas, and infant sister in tow. Without destination or an understanding of the war that has divided them from their nomadic Roma clan, the siblings travel by night and sleep by day, sensing danger at every juncture. Andrej scavenges for their food and necessities for the baby. One moon-drenched evening, the trio arrives at a zoo in the ruins of a bombed village. They encounter a menagerie of talking animals, trapped in zoo cages with neither keeper nor keys. Throughout a surreal evening, the boys and animals share life stories. Through the animals, Andrej and Tomas begin to understand the nature of man and war. This understanding, however, offers more questions than answers. Richard Aspel's, rich and sonorous voice creates memorable characterizations for the many humans and animals in Sonya Harnett's novel (Candlewick, 2011), including German-speaking soldiers; his Aussie pronunciation requires a keen ear. Listeners who persevere will be rewarded with a stellar performance. With some aspects of fable, minimal dialogue, and heavy use of allegory, this artfully crafted look at the character of man and the concept of freedom may have limited popular appeal.
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