August 7, 2016


The Opposite Zoo by Il Sung Na is the best kind of opposite book there is: minimally focused on text and highly focused on beautiful illustrations that visually explain the concept of opposites. Na's book tells the story of a monkey traveling through a zoo after it closes. Na's pairings are unique and refreshing, pushing the story past a simple"concept book" and offering a unique spin on traditional opposites.

The illustrations are ink and colored pencil, and Na uses them loosely and liberally. We get to see opposites like noisy monkeys versus a quiet turtle, and a hairy lion versus a bald hippo in full, messy layers. Every bit of every spread is engulfed in color, and Na experiments with colorful highlights to accentuate his images. Unlike many traditional opposite books, Na isn't afraid to play with the space on the page. Opposite animals don't necessarily stay on their own pages, but rather everything weaves in and out of each other, adding multiple layers of colors and texture.

Na also has a keen sense of visual continuity in his illustrations. In the last spread we get a panoramic view of all the animals, and we see that everyone has built upon the previous night's activities: the pig who was breastfeeding is now running around with her litter, and now instead of diving into the water, the hippo is resurfacing. We get to know these animals relatively well in the short moments we spend with them, and it's the warmth of the illustrations that helps us generate such a connection to the beautiful animals on the page.

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