By Bryan Chick
From the back cover
Noah’s sister Megan has disappeared, and he thinks that the Clarksville City Zoo has something to do with it. The animals are acting strangely, leaving cryptic messages for Noah and his friends Ella and Richie. Following the clues, they soon find themselves lost in a secret world more astonishing — and dangerous— than they ever imagined. Befriending polar bears, penguins, and rhinos on the way, Noah and his friends embark on a wild adventure to find Megan and bring her home.
Noah finds cryptic leads to the whereabouts of his missing sister and calls upon his two best friends to help find her which makes one wonder, why didn’t he ask for his parents’ help instead? Eventually the kids are warned not to tell adults but they embark on the mission without their parents’ knowledge from the start. As in saying, if you get in trouble, ask your friends for help and not your parents. As the story progresses, it is revealed that a whole secret city was built by the magic of three Indian magicians. The purpose of the secret city is noble (to save some animal species from extinction) but the use of magic is Haram in Islam. As I was reading the book I couldn’t help but wonder if the lead character, Noah, was made to resemble the prophet Nooh’ in more than one aspect.
In a gist...
None. However, the main characters are four friends, two girls and two boys. So boy-girl platonic friendship is displayed.
- The people of the secret zoo, including the main characters of the book, and the sasquatches engage in a battle that may be perceived as violent by some. The sasquatches attack the secret zoo animals and Noah with the clear intention of killing them. Noah at one point is pulled into a pond by one of the sasquatches and almost drowns to death. None of the animals or main characters die in the end.
- Mr. Darby’s story of the secret zoo may be emotional to some. A man loses his wife and son a few years apart and starts to go mad.
Mild language like jerk, stupid, and butt are used.
Ella watches TV for a moment and sees a man smoking a cigarette on TV.
Degradation of Family/Islamic Values
- The kids embark on a mission to rescue Megan without informing their parents.
- They visit the zoo several times without their parents knowledge.
- The kids leave their homes at midnight, while their parents are asleep, after receiving a message about the secret zoo.
- Evolution is mentioned briefly without much details. Mr. Darby explains that some animals in the zoo are “almost human”, they have higher intelligence and awareness than others due to “higher evolutionary characteristics”. (Chapter 43)
- The story contains magic and supernatural abilities by humans. The whole magic zoo was built by the magic of three Indian magicians to save animals from extinction.
- Biblical references:
1. The boy’s name is Noah, and saves animals from extinction. Is the author retelling the story of the prophet Nouh’ from a modern perspective?
2. Noah’s friend teases him in Chapter 6 by saying “Looks like something’s been rocking Noah’s ark” when Noah tells them that he wasn’t able to sleep at night. He continues to say “Maybe the animals have been keeping him awake”. This was before Noah tells his secret to his friends, so it is obvious that his friend is referring to the story of the Prophet Nouh’ PBUH.
This book would be a favourite for animal lovers. A magical city is built where animals and humans interact freely. The book ends on a positive note that when one believes, they can achieve the impossible - as is seen with the flying penguin. The book contains magic, biblical references, and some secrets are kept from the main characters’ parents.