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May 19, 2011

Author: Tracey West
Rating: 4/5 (or 4/5 penguin slaps)

Right now, my kid’s current interest is all things Madagascar. She was really fond of the first Madagascar movie and ever since then, it consumes a large portion of her day (we even draw Alex, Gloria, Marty, Melman, and all the other characters when we’re outside playing with sidewalk chalk). She’s also an avid reader. My kid can read independently and she pretty much screamed like she’d won the lottery when she saw this book at our local pharmacy. So, we bought the Bananapalooza! book, the perfect blend of her 2 current faves.

Product review: What happened?

Here’s the basic story line: you’re the new penguin at the New York zoo and you learn that King Julien wants to have a huge party called ‘Bananapalooza’. Only problem is, it’s taking place on the same day as the Night of the Zoo, a night where tons of humans are staying overnight at the zoo. The penguins (Skipper, Private, Kowalski, and Rico) are determined to stop King Julien. So, the question is: what will you do?
First off, I was completely impressed that this was a ‘pick your destiny’ or ‘which way do you want to go’ type book for my kid’s age range. I remember being a huge fan of these types of books when I was a kid although I can’t recall how old I was at the time. I used to spend hours flipping back and forth trying to determine the fate of the character based on the different decisions I made.
Since purchasing this book, we’ve gone through many different scenarios and my kid flips between helping King Julien to get Bananapalooza going or siding with the penguins to prevent the party from happening. There really are a ton of different endings and each one is different.

My kid’s review of the Bananapalooza! book:

“I like it when King Julien says to Maurice, ‘Maurice, did you put too much mango in my morning smoothie?’ (laughs). I like that you get to be the boy penguin in the book even though you’re a girl (giggles). ”
Q: What do you think happens in this book?
A: “In the book, King Julien wants to have Bananapalooza but the penguins want to play outside their cage.”
Q: What’s your favourite part of the book?
A: “When you have to go to the pages like if they say, ‘do you want to use the banana wagon or the golf cart’ and you have to go to the right number of the page to see what happens.”
Q: Who are your favourite characters from Madagascar?
A: “MORT!”
Q: What is your least favourite part about this book?
A: “I basically like everything.”


The book says it’s ideal for children 4 – 8 years old. I don’t know if I necessarily agree with the age range because I think some of the concepts within the book may be too complex for a 4 year old to grasp. Some, like kidnapping (one scenario includes a suggestion that King Julien be kidnapped so Bananapalooza doesn’t happen) even puzzled my 5 year old. I’m also not sure I’d like such a concept to be included in a kid’s book for entertainment purposes. After all, it’s not a light hearted topic. Some scenarios also led to endings that I thought happened too quickly. There were a few times where we got to the ‘The End’ and my kid said, “Huh? Now what?” because the storyline ended too prematurely. I would have liked it if the author had extended a few of the plotlines for the book.
Having said all of that, my kid really does enjoy the novelty of this book and the freedom of being able to make different choices that ultimately impact the end result of the story. In a world where adults make most of the decisions, this book, from a child’s perspective is liberating. I also like the fact that she does get to practice decision making skills and to learn that with each action comes consequences in a fun and creative manner. I’m not preaching all this to her. She’s simply learning through practice as she turns the different pages and witnesses the different story lines unfolding.
All in all, the book gets a 4/5 penguin slaps. Not bad, eh Skipper?

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