The Zabajaba Jungle
William Steig ~ Farrar Straus Giroux, 1981
After hearing forever about this one from a friend of mine and searching junk shelves far and wide, I finally accepted defeat and turned to eBay... and just in time. You know, every once and I while, I have a mild panic attack thinking about all the awesome undiscovered books out there that my son will never have a chance to know. But, there are only so many hours a day in which you can root through junk shop book piles before it begins to wear on the fragile fabric of your child's adolescence. My son already knows far more about the nuances of thrift shopping that any normal four-year-old should. So, I have to stop mourning the books we'll never love and resign myself to the hope that the books that we were meant to know will find us.
Enter the fantabulous world of The Zabajaba Jungle. Like all the Steig Books we've loved before, it's beguiling setting is at times both strange and familiar, and the story line lives in a place so far outside the box that it's absolutely devoid of angles altogether. And there's a giant bird, which always makes a book top tier in my son's world. So, our tale begins...
Leonard is slashing at the vines and creepers with his sharp bolo. He is fighting his way into the Zabajaba Jungle, where, it is said, no human being has ever penetrated. Why is he there? He himself doesn't know. He just has to push on.
And push on he does, encountering oversized, insect-eating plants and a petrified monster, and when he stops to rest, he finds himself trapped in his hammock above a teaming bed of serpents. He is rescued by a giant butterfly, meets a 7-foot-tall bird, is captured by a gang of mandrills and has to explain himself to a council of animal-headed judges who will determine his fate. Tens thumbs up for imagination. Steig must have been an odd and wonderful creature himself to have imagined the worlds that he did. We are lucky to know him, even just through the pages of his books.
The Amazing Bone
Amos & Boris
Yellow & Pink
Father Palmer's Wagon Ride
Solomon the Rusty Nail
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