The Midnight Zoo by Sonya Hartnett

The Midnight Zoo

Written by Sonya Hartnett

11+ readers   9+ readers   
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The Lovereading4Kids comment

Award-winning Sonia Harnett’s poignant magical realism story set in World War Two speaks powerfully about freedom and its importance. When the Germans attack their home, Tomas and Andrej escape carrying their baby sister Wilma in a sack. Travelling on foot through Europe they are searching for safety when they find a zoo, left abandoned after the town has been bombed. Each animal has a story to tell; each speaks of freedom and their sorrow at their loss of it while in the zoo. Sensitively and gently, the lessons from the animals’ experience help the children to reflect on the conflict that surrounds them and what it means for their own society.

Shortlisted for the 2012 Carnegie Medal.

The judges said: With its stunning descriptions and small parables which illustrate the inhumanity of war, and the havoc it wreaks on both people and animals, this is a profoundly moving novel. Unbearably sad in places, but never depressing with its message that accepting death means cherishing life; it is a beautiful fable with a moral message for us all.


Lovereading comment........This is a brilliantly told magical story that questions what it means to be free. Under cover of darkness, two brothers cross a war-ravaged countryside carting a secret bundle. One night they stumble across a deserted town reduced to smouldering ruins. But at the end of a blackened streeet they find a small green miracle: a zoo filled with animals in need of hope. This compelling and ageless fable about war and freedom tells the story of these animals and two children as between them they try to figure out a way to release the animals.


The Midnight Zoo by Sonya Hartnett

World War II, Eastern Europe: Tomas and his younger brother, Andrej, have fled their Romany encampment which has been besieged by the Germans; they carry Wilma, their baby sister, in a sack. In an abandoned, bombed-out town, the children discover a zoo. In it are a wolf and an eagle, a monkey, bear, lioness, seal, chamois and llama.

You might also like to read Sonya Hartnett's award-winning novel The Silver Donkey which is set in France during the First World War - a stunning piece of timeless and inspirational storytelling. You can download an extract of it here and also see more of our WW1 book selection here.


'a moving and original story with timeless relevance' - Daily Mail

'Hartnett's writing takes your breath away on every page' - The Scotsman

'Sonya depitcs circustances of young people without avoiding the darker sides of life. She does so with linguistic vituosity and a brilliant narrative technique; her works are a source of strength' - Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award 2008 Jury

About the Author

Sonya Hartnett

Sonya Hartnett was born in Melbourne, the second of six children. Her first book, Trouble All the Way, was written when she was just thirteen and published two years later. Since then she has gone on to write numerous successful novels, including The Ghost's Child, and has won many awards including the 2002 Guardian Children's Fiction Prize, the prestigious Age Book of the Year in Australia and most recently the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award 2008. Sonya lives in Australia.

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Book Info


208 pages
Interest Age: From 12


Sonya Hartnett
More books by Sonya Hartnett

Author's Website


Walker Books Ltd

Publication date

2nd May 2011




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