Early on in the proceedings of The Zebra’s Great Escape by Katherine Rundell, we’re told by an agitated zebra that ‘adults always want to follow the rules!’ This is why times of crisis traditionally call for a free-spirited child, in this case a young girl called Mink. Flagrantly flouting bedtime orders, Mink is accosted in a city playground one evening by the distressed creature, who tells her that his parents have been captured by a moustachioed scoundrel. He needs her help, and as it turns out, so does an entire living alphabet of wild creatures in this deliciously colourful story from one of our favourite writers.
Emitting strong Pippi Longstocking vibes, Mink likes doing things ‘fast and wild.’ Although startled to be approached in this way, she stands her ground and realises that although her new stripey friend can’t speak English, their common language appears to be colour. His every breath and snort produces vibrant shades and swirls, in this case urgent oranges and reds for danger. Mink can feel in her very bones what he’s trying to tell her, as his colours produce pictures in her mind.
The zebra’s parents have been stolen from a wildlife park and he needs her help to find them. We already know that he doesn’t rate adults, maybe his urban animal counterparts could be of assistance?
Meanwhile, out in the countryside, a villainous gentleman in tall black boots is smiling as he surveys a row of cages containing aardvarks, bears, capybaras…his horrifying alphabetical crimes almost complete.
Rundell’s wonderful animal tale is ideal for precocious young readers seeking a wordier picture book experience. In classic kid lit style, adults are rightfully relegated to the sidelines. After all, they ‘rarely notice things’. Even when the action spills over onto the city streets, they’re too busy looking at their phones.
A joyful read.
The Zebra’s Great Escape by Katherine Rundell is published by Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 60 pages.