sevenstories’ #CBR4 Review #45: The Midnight Zoo by Sonya Hartnett
“The wolf turned an ear a little, and Andrej wondered what the animal was hearing. Tanks churning through burning cities perhaps, or whales talking to one another in the sea. “There’s no limit to what a wolf can hear,” Uncle Marin had said. “A wolf can hear your heart beating even before you’re born.” Can you? Andrej longed to ask it. Can you hear my heart? Under cover of darkness, two brothers cross a war-ravaged countryside carrying a secret bundle. One night they stumble across a deserted town reduced to smouldering ruins. But at the end of a blackened street they find a small green miracle; a zoo filled with animals in need of hope. A moving and ageless fable about war and freedom.”
First Line: “If the old bell had been hanging in the steeple it would have rung to announce midnight, twelve solemn iron klongs which would have woken the villagers from their sleep and startled any small creature new to the village and unaccustomed to the noise.”
Why I read it: It is on the current Carnegie prize shortlist.
Who I would recommend it to: If you like the Once series by Morris Gleitzman or The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak. Fans of lyrical, haunting writing.
Well, this has been another pleasant surprise on the Carnegie shortlist. As I’m not generally a fan of animal stories, I was not expecting to particularly enjoy this but I wasn’t expecting a moving and haunting story of family and loss. Hartnett’s writing is truly beautiful, I am in awe of her talent and would definitely like to read more of her work. This is familiar territory, being set in World War II, but Harnett offers a totally unique take on it which balances fantasy and magic with the cruel truths of the war. This is a wonderful novel that surprised me with its beauty and is definitely in contention for being my favourite on the shortlist. It is a love story to the strength of human spirit and to loyalty and love itself.