Book Review: The Midnight Zoo by Sonya Hartnett

Having not heard of Sonya Hartnett before this year, this is now the third book that I have read from this fantastic Australian author. Her skill as a writer is evident as she transverses genres from children’s picture books like the exquisite The Boy and The Toy , to adult fiction like the touching and at times painfully evocative Butterfly.

The Midnight Zoo by Sonya Hartnett is the story of two brothers Tomas and Andrej, who are fleeing from danger in the midst of a war without their parents. The first chapters introduce you to the brothers and a secret bundle that they are carrying. There is great poignancy in their reflections of what they have learned from their mother and uncle, that is enabling them to cope with the adversity that they are facing.

As the brothers take shelter in a zoo that has yet to be destroyed by the ongoing war, Hartnett’s writing not only allows you to envisage the darkness and the confusion that the boys experience, but also their courage and want for freedom for themselves and the animals. Through the talking animals, the story further explores freedom and the impact that war has on all, like this observation from the boar:

You claim to be different form the gadje, but you aren’t. Humans are all exactly the same. Each of you lives in a fever of selfishness and destruction. You persecute the creatures that you fear, yet the species you should fear most is your own.

A powerful thought given the current inward focus of the federal election campaign running in Australia at the moment! The Midnight Zoo is a modern fable whose moral will not diminish over time.

The Details – The Midnight Zoo by Sonya Hartnett

Published: 02/08/2010
Format: Hardback, 208 pages
RRP: $24.95
Imprint: Viking
Publisher: Penguin Aus.
Origin: Australia
General fiction (Children’s/YA)
Reading age: from c 13 years
Reading age: from c 14 years (Young Adult)

Planning With Kids received The Midnight Zoo courtesy of Penguin Australia.