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Review: Mary and Gary Parker. 2007. The Complete Zoo Adventure. Hardcover with coil and envelope with cards. Full colour. 160 pages.

Zoos not only provide a delightful experience for children and the whole family, but they also provide “teachable moments” in which we can all learn more about these creatures, and by extension, more about the Creator who made them. Many children however have little opportunity to visit a zoo. But they can still learn about and reflect on the wonderful animals that are typically displayed at a zoo. It is certainly true that some research about these animals will cause children to be better observers. I well remember trying to interest our children in a large snake in a pet store cage. We quickly discovered that children who do not know what a snake is, are not going to be impressed by a fat yellow coil parked in the corner of a cage. So background information helps.

In addition, in the process of considering these creatures, the youngsters may well ask why there are so many kinds of animal. In this situation, the discussion will certainly point us to God, the Creator. This is the objective of the Parkers’ Complete Zoo Adventure. This hard cover book, in full colour, is guaranteed to capture the attention of your youngsters.

In an attached envelope, the Parker book includes several kinds of cards. There are field journals with space for children to record details of the animals which they observe at the zoo. Also there is a field fact card for each animal and these cards are colour coded for animal body plan (for example mustard for hoofed mammals, or blue for mammals with paws, green for birds, grey for reptiles and red for one amphibian). Each animal field fact card has similar categories of information provided in an organized way for quick comparisons. One can compare body coverings, animal diets, when they are active, where they live etc.

In addition, seven biome cards are provided. A biome is a climatic zone determined by the general availability of water, the temperature range of the area, and the range of seasonal variation. For example, organisms which survive in a dry but cold environment will be different from those characteristic of a dry but hot climate. Thus there are seven basic biomes in the world: tundra; evergreen/boreal forest; desert; deciduous/temperate forest; chaparral/Mediterranean; rain forest and grassland/savannah. These cards describe the features of each zone including a map of where they are located and a scale indicating average temperature. This is provided only in Fahrenheit however. An adjacent Celcius scale would have been nice for Canadians. Also the cards give no indication of average rainfall, which is a very important characteristic of each biome. At any rate the cards are a great idea and should serve to focus a young person’s attention on ecology.

In the book proper, there are beautiful two or three page discussions of each animal. This includes a map of where the animal lives, the technical classification according to its body plan, and interesting details concerning its biology. Another feature of these discussions is the provision for each animal of a Bible verse which is then connected to the discussion. Some of the verses seem very remotely relevant to the animal, for example 2 Peter 3:13 (we look for a new heaven and earth) connected to the elephant..

Another feature of the Parker book is the provision of seven devotionals which provide the context for understanding biological diversity and ecology. The first one discusses God as creator and four themes for understanding our world: creation, corruption (the fall), catastrophe (the flood) and Christ (salvation). The second devotional discusses the power of God and design features exhibited by organisms. The third discusses the progression of time and ecological roles of organisms in nature. The fourth discusses days five and six of the creation week. The fifth discusses the fall of man and various consequences which followed. The sixth discusses the flood, and the seventh discusses Christ’s work of salvation and our responsibility to exercise stewardship over the earth.

For easy access of information, the Parker book has dividers with tabs to separate the various sections. They also provide a few pages ready to duplicate for activities suitable to early elementary children and later elementary youngsters. Some activity suggestions are more challenging and could be suitable for somewhat older students. The Parkers have also included suggestions for parents/teachers on how to use the material to best advantage.

The Parkers’ book is exciting to look at, stimulating to read and it no doubt will provide many families with a fun filled learning experience even if they cannot actually go to the zoo! Their provision of a Christian context to the discussion is certainly helpful and interesting. Many families and school classes will find this book a joy to use.



June 2009

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