Author, artist, and game designer Joshua Davidson first devised the Night Zookeeper website when he was studying for an MA in digital arts. It was a space where children could design their own animals and write stories about them. Since then, the site has been nominated for several awards and is used by schools across the country to inspire creative writing.
There is now a whole series of accompanying books, resources, and (my son reliably informs me) avatars on a well known times table website, to get children’s imaginations whirring and creative juices flowing.
Now it’s time to meet the books!
Book 1: The Giraffes of Whispering Wood
Bestowed with a Zookeeper’s uniform and a magical teleporting torch, he’s tasked with protecting the Zoo’s inhabitants from the evil Lord of Nulth, and his army of robotic spiders, the Voids. In this adventure, Will is introduced to the Zoo’s friendlier creatures – the glowing Night Butterflies, Bumbling Bees, and he even makes friends with a spying giraffe called Sam. But Will faces his first real test when the Voids attack, does he really have what it takes to be the Night Zookeeper and save his new friends?
Book 2: The Lioness of Fire Desert
Will journeys to Fire Desert, where rumours of a creature called ‘the Grip’ have struck fear into the hearts of the animals. Even Captain Claw, a fierce lioness, seems to be acting strangely on hearing the news. The animals look to Will to save them, but does he have the strength to overcome his fears, and become the hero that the Night Zoo needs?
Book 3: The Penguins of Igloo City
In this adventure, Will travels through a new portal and arrives within the high walls of Igloo City. It is a strange place where the animals follow strict rules put in place by their leader, Circles the owl. Circles is determined to stamp out any rule breakers and wants Will to track down a group of rebels, but is it the right thing to do? The safety of Igloo City depends on Will choosing the right side.
Book 4: The Elephant of Tusk Temple
Join Will as he travels through a new portal and arrives at the Tusk Temple in search of Maji the time-travelling elephant. But the temple is in danger. The only way to save it is for Will to undergo the Night Zookeeper trial – facing leaps over bottomless caverns, impossible puzzles, and an ultimate test in bravery. Can Will pass the trial and save the day, or is this the end of the Night Zoo?
Book 5: The Bear of Flying Mountain
Will, Riya and Sam the Spying Giraffe must travel to a mountain flying high up in the sky! They are in search of a famous hero who can help protect the Night Zoo from the evil Lord of Nulth.
Our brave companions must climb a frozen waterfall, care for a hungry wolf, made entirely of a biting wind, and finally enter a dark ice cave. But, will our heroes find an ally or an enemy hiding within?
I think what makes these books so appealing to their readers is the combination of fast-paced action and fantastical creatures. It’s very easy to get totally swept away with Will and his friends as they battle to save the world of the Night Zoo from the evil army of Zoids.
These stories also address important themes such as bravery, teamwork, and making the right decisions. Stories are so important for letting children explore challenging ideas or emotions in a safe setting. They allow them to discuss appropriate responses or strategies for different situations and develop their skills of empathy.
The power of the imagination is a central strand to all the Night Zookeeper stories. Each book has a selection of puzzles, writing prompts, and word games to encourage children to write their own Night Zoo adventures. I love that the series makes the link between reading for pleasure and writing so explicit.
This series would be the perfect read for anyone aged 6+ who loves action and adventure, with a healthy dose of imagination.
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