Mr. Peek and the Misunderstanding at the Zoo

Book review by
Darienne Stewart, Common Sense Media
Mr. Peek and the Misunderstanding at the Zoo Book Poster Image
A humorous lesson in the power of positive thinking.

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The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value
Positive Messages

Mr. Peek remains oblivious to what's happening around him, but readers learn how easily a situation can be misunderstood, from Mr. Peek's belief that he outgrew his suit to the animals' belief that he's saying unkind things about them. The importance of attitude also shines through: Mr. Peek sees everything in a whole new light when he realizes his jacket still fits just fine.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Mr. Peek ultimately shows how attitude can be everything, but he doesn’t seem to learn much of a lesson about making assumptions. Young Jimmy, however, has a sense of humor about the whole thing and isn’t at all upset about the damage to his jacket.

Violence & Scariness

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Mr. Peek -- as a representative adult -- comes across as a rather ridiculous, foolish character. Kids will readily relate: Adults all too often make a big deal out of the smallest, funniest things. Also, Mr. Peek exclaims, "Oh, poop!" when he loses his button.

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What's the story?

Dressing for work, Mr. Peek accidentally dons his young son’s jacket and pops off a button. He scolds himself out loud through his zoo rounds: “You’re getting very fat!” The nearby hippo thinks he’s talking about her. He laments his wrinkles as he passes the elephant, and complains, near the giraffes, “None of the animals even like you!” Then he spots his son wearing a too-big jacket and it’s clear what happened. Mr. Peek changes into his own jacket and retraces his route -- this time with nothing but nice things to say to himself. He spreads cheer among all the animals who were so upset by his earlier passing. He promises not to let himself get so carried away -- but when he realizes his keys are missing, he starts right up again.

Is it any good?

This unusual, clever story is plenty of fun for kids, but its point may jab at parents a bit. That’s not a bad thing. How often do grown-ups speak disparagingly about themselves, in jest or in dismay? It isn’t good for anyone, especially for little ears who may hear something very different. Kids will recognize Mr. Peek and giggle at the effects of his monologue: the shocked elephant, the dejected monkeys, the sobbing giraffes. But once he realizes he hasn’t outgrown his jacket after all, he bounds happily through the zoo. The animals still misunderstand his cheery self-affirmations -- he still isn’t talking about them, but it doesn’t matter a bit.

Moods are infectious, and this is a wonderful illustration of how one person can brighten -- or ruin -- another’s day. Mr. Peek works himself into a very dark mood, and his paranoia about getting fired might puzzle kids. Mr. Peek doesn’t quite learn his lesson on assuming the worst -- he vows to keep his mind straight next time, and just one page later he’s forgotten his promise. But again, that’s pretty typical of grown-ups.

Playful, clever artwork captures Mr. Peek’s dejection -- and then better spirits. Kids will enjoy spotting Jimmy and the black cat as they trail Mr. Peek through the zoo.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about misunderstandings. What assumption does Mr. Peek make when he finds his jacket too tight? Why do the animals assume he’s talking about them?

  • Mr. Peek spreads his bad mood to everyone around him. Do you think that kind of talk is helping Mr. Peek or makes him feel even worse? Does it matter if he says it out loud or just thinks it? How do you feel when you hear someone putting himself down? How does his improved mood change things at the zoo?

  • At first, Mr. Peek complains that he’s old and out of shape, but then says he isn’t after all. What’s changed? Families can talk about the power of words, and positive thinking.

  • How would you cheer up Mr. Peek?

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