- Craig Graziano
All is well at the city zoo. The zookeeper lies back in his chair, grabbing a quick snooze. It is a perfect time…for escape.
Where’s Walrus, written and illustrated by Stephen Savage is a delightful romp through New York City with a flippered fugitive who always knows where he can blend in, outsmarting the zookeeper every step of the way. Our title character first hides in a fountain, pretending to be a mermaid, next we see him in a diner, then a store window. The zookeeper is close behind, but never quite sees through the disguises. Will you?
Contrary to Savage’s story, walruses do not often escape from the zoo and frolic around New York, easily blending in with their surroundings. They often weigh over a ton and commonly live near the arctic, leaving only to hang out with carpenters or to take part in the occasional Beatles song.
Still, what the wordless picture book lacks in facts, it makes up for in silliness. I personally can’t blame the walrus for breaking out. He has a pen that is only the size of a mere kiddie pool (even the peacock gets more space). Plus, our zookeeper is entirely unprepared to get that pesky pinniped back. What tool does he take on his chase? A butterfly net. Walrus totally deserves to get away. I was also genuinely impressed with our hero’s ability to find so many terrific hats.
The illustrations are simple and wonderfully retro. Bold lines and minimal colors manage to break down this chase into something that the youngest of children can enjoy. It’s quite not on the level of Where’s Waldo or I Spy, but rather something even more accessible.
Eventually our friend is found, but the return to the zoo is more of a triumph than a defeat. The zookeeper wises up and gives walrus a roomier habitat with more room for what he does best. Savage's book is a great piece of work that owes as much to Looney Tunes as it does to art deco posters. Track down a copy of Where’s Walrus today, but leave the butterfly net at home.