By Lou Kuenzler and Julia Woolf
Published by Faber and Faber ISBN 9780571351701
Reviewed by Louise Date
2020 has been a strange year for us all, but amongst the small pleasures continuing, authors and illustrators are still managing to get work published, and there are still captive audiences ready to receive images of colour, vitality and joy. One such book, released just a fortnight after the start of the UK lockdown is Calm Down Zebra, a new creation from Faber and Faber.
Calm Down Zebra is written by Lou Kuenzler and illustrated by Julia Woolf, and follows on from Not Yet Zebra, another fun rhyming book for early learners. To continue, the same enthusiastic zebra is back, and helping Annie teach her little brother all about colours and how to use them, sometimes with a little too much zeal! Zebra brings a brand new way of thinking, and although things don’t turn out quite how Annie had thought they would, they leave each page a happier brighter place. Together, Zebra, Annie and Joe paint, spatter and splodge their way through a brand new adventure.
Calm Down Zebra is excellent as a read aloud book that will delight small readers with Kuenzler’s rhymes and Woolf’s exuberant use of colour and expression. Each page has a pair of couplets, and a happy, upbeat style that explores creativity, and throughout Zebra teaches us that although he can appear cheeky to Annie, he is actually behaving not unlike young readers, and experimenting with mark-making. The pace is quick; though the couplets allow the opportunity to stop and discuss, or to take a close look at the craziness on the page.
Some of the images created by Woolf are designed to make the reader giggle; a polar bear with pink stripes, and orang-utan painted blue that makes Joe wiggle in delight. The characters are colourful but simple, and each page is spattered with multi-coloured paint blotches to add to the chaos exhibited by Zebra’s antics. The backgrounds are all a flat plane of white or pale blue, and there is a heavy use of strong primary colours. The use of crayon texture adds a nice depth to the images that nonetheless sing because the simplicity allows the characterisation of the animals and humans to dominate the page.
A bit zany, lots of fun, Calm Down Zebra is an excellent tonic to read, rhyme and play with whenever you need a pick-me-up – and to remember to let the creativity flow.