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Never Play Music Right Next to the Zoo

Last updated Monday, July 27, 2020

Author: John Lithgow
Illustrator: Leeza Hernandez
Date of Publication: 2013
ISBN: 1442467436
Grade Level: 4th    (GLCs: Click here for grade level guidelines.)
Date(s) Used: Aug. 2020

Synopsis: Oh, children! Remember! Whatever you may do,
Never play music right next to the zoo.
They’ll burst from their cages, each beast and each bird,
Desperate to play all the music they’ve heard.

A concert gets out of hand when the animals at the neighboring zoo storm the stage and play the instruments themselves in this hilarious picture book based on one of John Lithgow’s best-loved tunes.

Note to readers:
•  This is a good book to do a picture walk before you read it aloud. You can have the kids identify the instruments in the orchestra and the various kinds of animals. There is a very nice recording of someone reading the book aloud at" if you want to get some ideas before you read to the kids.

Discussion topics for before reading:
•  Who has been to the zoo? Which one? What animals can you name?
•  What's your favorite animal?
•  Who has been to a live concert? Which one? Where was it?
•  Who do you know who plays a musical instrument? What's YOUR favorite instrument?
•  If this instrument was played by an an animal instread, what animal would you pick?


•  balmy - pleasantly warm (weather)
•  band shell - a bandstand in the form of a large concave shell with special acoustic properties (like the back of Hollywood Bowl) You can discuss if anyone in the "room" might have been to the Hollywood Bowl.
•  chaos - complete disorder and confusion.

Discussion topics for during/after reading:
•  Why does the conductor "erupt with rage?" What is "erupting" and why with "rage?"
•  What happened in the story?
•  What animals stormed the stage?
•  What instruments did they play?
•  What was your favorite animal musician?
•  What did the boy learn at the end of the story?

Craft ideas:
•  Draw your favorite animal. Add an instrument!! Have your favorite animal playing your favorite musical instrument.
•  Check our craft ideas on Pinterest!

Special activities:
•  You looked at all the animals and instruments in the picture walk before reading the book aloud. Now go through and see if you can identify the various animals and instruments:
•  Animals: Bear, Bison, Bonobo, Camel, Elephant, Ferret, Flamingo, Hippo, Jackal, Lion, Mongolian Goat, Monkey, Raccoon, Siberian Tiger, Snake, Yak
•  Instruments: Bass, Bassoon, Fiddle, Flute, Oboe, Percussions (includes the timpani and the triangle), Sax(ophone), Timpani, Triangle, Trumpet, Tuba

*Note: These craft ideas are just suggestions. You can use them, but you don't have to use them. You can expand upon them, or add your own twist. Remember, though, that the focus of your time should not be on the development and execution of a craft; the focus should be on the read-aloud and the enjoyment of the book!