Book Review: A Room with a Zoo, by Jules Feiffer

room_zoo_coverThis book review is part of series of reviews written by students at St. Margaret’s Episcopal School for their 7th grade English classes.

Love is a very powerful emotion; whether the feeling is between humans or animals. A Room with a Zoo by Jules Feiffer is a story of a vet-aspiring little girl, Julie, who loves animals and wishes for a Chihuahua more than anything in the world. Her love for animals results with a zoo in her apartment room located in New York.

The start of Julie’s zoo was when she saw a dog food commercial. At that moment, Julie, despite her young age, established her strong love for animals and the desire to own a dog; specifically a Chihuahua. Of course, her parents refused to buy her a dog, much less a Chihuahua, using the excuse that she was not old enough to walk her own dog. Soon after, a debate between Julie and her parents took place resulting in the compromised age of ten-and-a-half when she would be able to get a dog. Julie, being her sneaky yet brilliantly minded self, asked if she would be allowed to have a cat because cats, after all, do not require walks. Her mom and dad had to give in because they had no valid excuses and Julie ended up with a kitten from the shelter named Timmy. At the time, Julie could not have even imagined that her bedroom would soon turn into a zoo with all her pets of various types: a hamster named Hammy, a “gangster” fish Oscar, few red fish universally called Reddy, a turtle known as Turtelini, and yet another cat named Jessie! As Julie expands her “zoo” one pet at a time, she encounters a most pleasant surprise towards the end of this book; one that she would have never guessed in her dreams.

For many reasons, A Room with a Zoo was a very enjoyable book. First of all, the voices of all the characters were vivid, although the main character’s voice was the most prominent. Another reason the book left such a positive image on my mind was because although the book was quick, it taught the valuable lesson that love is a remarkable thing. Lastly, this book by Jules Feiffer was very engaging; especially to an animal lover such as myself. Throughout the book, there were close calls of Julie’s pets’ lives and through all of them, I sighed in relief or sympathized with Julie. Except for some sentences which were confusing when it came to evaluating the flow of the words, this was a delightful yet quick piece of literature.

There were two main aspects of this book that were very pleasant: the character voices and developments. Julie’s voice was the most intriguing and memorable because of its clarity and trueness. Her voice was also the major factor which won me over in this book. Jules Feiffer did excellent job thinking like a little girl Julie’s age. In all honesty, Julie acted like a brat at times to her parents and sister but because of her childish ways, the book seemed more alive and in character. Another fabulous aspect of this book that set it apart from others was the developments of the characters. Julie, for example, grew more mature as the story progressed; having experienced more things and having learnt from those stepping stones of life. Although at the beginning of the book Julie demanded from her parents, towards the end, she became very thoughtful because she thought, “I wanted a kitten, but if I was going to have a dog, then I couldn’t” (110). Another character with a major character development throughout the story was Julie’s mother. Julie’s mother, despite hating animals, tried to change her way of thinking just to make her little girl happy and ended up showcasing acts of bravery that might not have been possible at the beginning of the story. Her extreme love for her daughter was displayed perfectly by the quote, “Julie, I wish I could love animals as much as you do. But I love you loving them” (84). Although Julie was an adopted child, her mother was willing to open her heart to animals more because her beloved daughter adored animals so much. Throughout the book, the main characters’ voices and developments really spoke out to me and made my experience of living the story more vivid and real.

As an extreme animal lover, this book was one that I appreciated very much. I could relate to Julie’s troubles and thoughts having had similar thoughts in the past. Also, I enjoyed Julie’s “true” voice; one that was pure and adorable. Love exists in the world; whether it is between humans and humans or humans and animals. A Room with a Zoo by Jules Feiffer was a book full of love; revealing what true love is like. I definitely recommend this book to animal enthusiasts, active readers searching for a quick, entertaining read, and for just anyone else.

-Alice N., 7th grade

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