Noah Wild and the floating zoo by Alexander McCall Smith
Bloomsbury, 2020. 120p. ISBN: 9781526605542.
(Age: 7+) Adventure. The scene is set for a classic children's book. There are no responsible parents, only eccentric aunts and uncles. Noah & Hattie are living happily enough with Aunt Smiley when their pirate Uncle Loafy, having closed his Zoo, invites them to help re-locate his last four wild animals to their homelands.
Monkey Robertson, Henrietta Alpaca, Mrs Roo, a tiger called Ram and four humans, set sail on a magnanimous quest, investing time and money to ensure the well-being of all species. After the practicalities of fixing the Ark and the obligatory storm, the expansiveness of travel is a steady learning curve . . . and as always they're dogged by the enraptured reader.
The author ponders many different versions of the nature vs nurture conundrum: Mistaken identity is a thing. Upbringing counts. Sometimes genetics and animal natures are insurmountable. And when the roguish Monkey Robertson proves incapable of rehabilitation, we must accept that he is a higher species trapped in the wrong body.
Children's authors sometimes write best-selling adult literature. Alexander McCall Smith has proven the reverse is also possible. In future, adults may not draw parallels to Noah Wild's musings when compelled to turn the pages of The Life of Pi, or when shedding tears at the treatment of lab animals in We are All Completely Beside Ourselves but Smith's brushstrokes on an early literacy canvas will have played a part.