In primary school we had books called Free Stuff for Kids, that listed heaps of things we could send away for in the post. You could get stickers, posters, stuff like that. I definitely do not recall an option to send away to the zoo for a pet.
It seems an irresponsible and expensive concept. You’d need a shitload of stamps to post an elephant to a kid. But that’s the basis of Dear Zoo, the classic lift-the-flap book by Scottish author and illustrator Rod Campbell.
“I wrote to the zoo to send me a pet,” a kid writes on the first page. If I was the zookeeper I’d have thought: “What’s the wee bairn havering aboot?” I assume that’s how Scottish people talk. Then I’d have written to young Angus or Morag or whoever and explained that zoo animals need special care and attention and are not appropriate as family pets.
Instead, this zoo sends the kid an elephant, which is about as responsible as putting Donald Trump in charge of the nuclear codes. And like Trump the kid is a whining jackass, complains that the elephant is too big, and sends it back. They send a giraffe. It’s too tall, the kid says, and sends it back.
Reading between the lines, I suspect the zookeeper becomes annoyed at this point. The kid gets sent a lion, and then a snake. What sort of zookeeper thinks these are appropriate pets for a child? A pissed-off zookeeper who wants to teach the ungrateful little shit a lesson, perhaps.
But the kid is not to be deterred, and keeps returning the animals until the zoo sends a cute puppy dog. “He was perfect! I kept him,” the kid says. What sort of puppies does a zoo keep? It'll probably grow up to be a wolf or a dingo or something. Next time write to the Lost Dogs’ Home, kid.
Dear Zoo is a classic that was first published in 1982. It’s cute, simple and interactive – Heidi loves lifting the flaps to see what animal is underneath. And for all my facetiousness, I think it’s a lot of fun.
I’m just not sure about the moral of the story, which appears to be “keep whingeing until you get what you want”. Thanks, Rod. As if kids need any encouragement with that.