Storytime Spotlight: GadZOOks! Animals on the Loose

Wanted to share my last day ever with my Saturday storytimers! This group is so very near and dear to my heart. We’ve been together for almost a year and a half now and it was SO HARD to say goodbye this weekend. I know I’ll meet new families and build new relationships when I start at my new library system… but right now I’m thinking about the birthdays I’m going to miss, and the babies on the way I won’t get to meet, and the kiddos going to school soon, and all the milestones I’m going to miss celebrating with these special families. 😭

Anyways, I’ll be doing storytimes with a larger crowd at my new library, so I treated myself to some big books. A little retail therapy goes a long way, right? I hope? When a beautiful big copy of Goodnight Gorilla arrived on my doorstep last week, I just knew we had to read it. And so a new storytime is born!

Welcome & Set Expectations

*Sing: I Roll the Ball to…

*Sing: If You’re Ready for a Story…

Read: Where’s Walrus? by Stephen Savage

Reading wordless picture books is one of my favorite ways to manage the many ages and stages and languages in my Saturday storytime room, and this story is my favorite of all. Before we get going, I draw attention to illustration of walrus winking. “I wonder why he’s winking? Maybe he wants us to keep a secret!”

walrus wink

As the story starts, I point out the absence of words and encourage the kiddos to look at the pictures and help tell what’s happening. “Where is this story happening? At the zoo! What’s everyone doing? Napping! Once upon a time it was a quiet day at the zoo. Everyone was napping. The lion was sleeping… SNORE. The elephant was sleeping… SNORE. The zookeeper was sleeping… SNORE. What happened next? What’s walrus doing? He’s escaping! Oh no! What do you think the zookeeper said? AAAAAH!”


Walrus then dons multiple disguises to hide from the zookeeper all around town. If I have a younger audience, I take charge of narrating most of the remaining pages and use a familiar refrain. “The zookeeper looked all around the construction site… but he couldn’t find walrus anywhere! The zookeeper looked all around the park… but he couldn’t find walrus anywhere!”


When we read this story a few months ago, one of my three year olds kept holding a finger to his lips and shushing us so people would stop revealing walrus’s secret. Now I incorporate this every time and the kids love it! “… but he couldn’t find walrus anywhere! Do you see walrus? Shhh!”

Eventually walrus’s cover gets blown and they return to the zoo… but something’s different! “Can you spot what’s different? What size was the pool in the beginning? What size is it now?”

Play: Hat Hiding Game

Guess what? A whole bunch of animals escaped from Denver Zoo and they’re here with us… right now… right in this very room! Can you help me find them and round them up?

Walrus, walrus, where could you be?

Are you under the baseball cap?

Let’s look and see!

(repeat with other animals/hats)

Sing: The Monkey Dance by The Wiggles

Rhyme: Monkey See, Monkey Do

Monkey see, monkey do

Little monkey at the zoo.

Little monkey in the tree,

Can you jump around like me?

(repeat with spin around, sit down)

Credit: Storytime Katie

Read: Giraffe Calves or Baby Gorillas by Julie Murray

We took a quick vote and counted 7 hands for giraffes and 5 hands for gorillas (and 3 abstentions). Which number is bigger, 7 or 5? 7! That means more people want to read about giraffes! We took some snake breaths and then dived into our nonfiction book to learn more about these absolutely adorable animals.

Lit Tip: The Power of Choice & Print Motivation

Grown-ups, research shows that one of the best ways to get kids to love reading is to let them CHOOSE what they read. Liking books and reading time is important because learning to read is REALLY hard work! When you let your child choose their books, even if you think that book is too long or too weird or whatever, you help build that print motivation they need so they can learn how to read.

Rhyme: Very, Very Tall by Wiggleworms

Giraffes are so tall! Let’s stretch up high like a giraffe before we read our last book. Can you stretchy very, very tall?

Read: Goodnight Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann


“Remember how walrus winked at us because he wanted us to keep a secret from the zookeeper? Look at the gorilla on this cover… what’s he doing? Why is he holding his finger to his lips? He’s saying Shhh! Why does he want us to be quiet? Because he doesn’t want us to tell the zookeeper he took the keys! Oh no! I wonder what this gorilla’s going to do next?!”

Sing: Sleeping Bunnies by Kathy Reid-Naiman (scarves)

Except we were sleeping zoo animals! 🙂

*Learning Through Play

*Please visit this page to learn more about my regular storytime songs and routines.

And that was that.

Now I’m on the hunt for more picture book covers with animals looking like they’re up to something sneaky/keeping secrets… like:

Let me know if you think of any more or if you can figure out some good search terms! Somehow I’m not finding a subject heading. 😆

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