BOOKS: Kathryn & the Runaway Zoo
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, April 2007:
Kathryn & the Runaway Zoo by William B. Catton
Vantage Press Inc. (419 Park Ave. S., New York, NY 10016), 2007.
140 pages, paperback. $11.95.
Kathryn, a 13-year-old passionate animal lover, is a
frequent visitor to the local zoo, which houses the largest
collection of animals in America, and is owned by one Mortimer
Farrington, known to all as an “ill-tempered and arrogant skinflint.”
Because of her way with animals she is offered a part time
job after school and weekends. She is, however, horrified at the
outdated, cramped conditions of the zoo, and seeks improvement by
writing to Farrington, asking him to consider refurbishing the zoo
in order to give the animals more space. He refuses, so she writes
to the newspapers, which infuriates him.
Undaunted, she hatches a plan to relocate some of the
animals. She has read about a wealthy English woman, the Countess
of Scarborough, who is turning her Yorkshire estate into a wildlife
refuge. She writes to the Countess, offering to sell her a list of
animals, who she knows are unhappy in their small cages. She hopes
that the prospect of obtaining big money in exchange for his animals
will encourage old Farrington to let the animals go to England and to
a better life.
This is a novel for the young reader.
Editor’s note: Few major U.S. zoos are privately owned–but
most British zoos are. Those familiar with the career and character
of the late British zoo entrepreneur John Aspinall may wonder if this
book is in part a spoof of his escapades, as was reputedly the 1998
John Clease film Fierce Creatures.