The Zabajaba Jungle

Book: The Zabajaba Jungle
Author and Illustrator: William Steig
Publisher: Sunburst, republished in 1991
ISBN-13: 978-0374387907 (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 0374387907 (Hardcover)
ISBN-13: 978-0374495947 (Paperback)
ISBN-10: 0374495947 (Paperback)
Language level: 1
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Reading level: Ages 4 and up
Rating: ***** 5 stars (EXCELLENT)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
Disclosure: Any books donated for review purposes are in turn donated to a library. No other compensation has been received for the reviews posted on Home School Book Review.
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Steig, William. The Zabajaba Jungle (published in 1987 by Farrar Straus Giroux). The Zabajaba Jungle is a mysterious and menacing place filled with all sorts of dangerous plants and animals. A solid looking fellow named Leonard penetrates and traverses this jungle in which things are seldom as they seem. Odd adventures await him. He walks through the inside of a petrified monster, experiences carnivorous plants, gets rescued from a mass of snakes by a butterfly, discovers the delicious but illegal nectar of the Jabazaba flower, and is dragged off by mandrills who take him before three strange judges. They are impressed when Leonard sets off some fireworks which he happens to have. Then he escapes, and discovers his parents peacefully sitting in an enormous glass bottle. His mother is knitting, and his father is reading the paper. He breaks the bottle and leads them out of the jungle.

Though the imaginative and adventuresome story is relatively brief and somewhat peculiar, it will appeal to kids and adults who enjoy the bizarre. It has witty moments and a refreshingly challenging vocabulary. The powerfully fanciful illustrations, filled with all kinds of extravagant creations, are appropriately jungle-like and ravishingly colorful in the manner of mosaics. William Steig (1907-2003) published his first children’s book, Roland the Minstrel Pig, in 1968. He received the Caldecott Medal for Sylvester and the Magic Pebble in 1970. His works also include The Amazing Bone, a Caldecott Honor Book, and Abel’s Island and Doctor De Soto, both Newbery Honor Books. One of his later books published was Shrek! which was released by DreamWorks as a major motion picture. I have been told that the book is much better than the film, which I have heard tended to be rather crude.

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