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Book Review: The Dead Zoo

Peter Donnelly
The Dead Zoo
Gill Books, September 2020
Hardback, 32PP, €14.99
ISBN: 9780717189724
Review by Joanna Geoghegan.

Mr Gray is a very serious man who works in a museum called the Dead Zoo, which is full of animals who are very quiet, and very still. Imagine Mr Gray’s surprise when one day, he finds a mouse in his museum, who most certainly is not very still or very quiet! Mr Gray must catch the little mouse before she can wreak havoc.

The Dead Zoo, written and illustrated by Peter Donnelly, is a charming tale about how friendships can form in the unlikeliest of circumstances. The interaction between Mr Gray and the little mouse acts as a reminder of the old adage that books should not be judged by their cover – though many people are afraid of mice, the mouse in this story is kind and friendly.

The mouse acts as a representation of younger readers in this story, as it attempts to break down the boundary between adults and children and encourages them to take the time to understand each other’s wants and needs – the mouse needs a safe home, and Mr Gray needs love, friendship and kindness.

The minimalist nature of the illustrations in the Dead Zoo work brilliantly to keep up the flow of the story, the white backgrounds on many of the pages drawing the reader’s eye to the most important elements on the page. Donnelly makes effective use of the colour palette throughout the book to contrast the gravitas of Mr Gray’s character with the vibrant animals and children on each page.

Peter Donnelly charms the reader with this educational tale of love, kindness and empathy. The Dead Zoo is a must-read for young and old alike. Age 0-4.


Peter Donnelly will be joining us for an event in partnership with the Natural History Museum this Saturday 28th November at 10:15 am, when he will be doing a reading of his new picturebook, The Dead Zoo. Click below to register for this free event: