In what is an unusual alliance between a young girl named Mink and a young zebra named Gabriel, Rundell and Ogilvie present us with a classic adventure that champions celebrating and fighting for the freedom to be your true self and coming together to overthrow oppression and wickedness.
Known for loving her father but delighting in not playing by society’s rules, Mink decides to stay up past normal bedtime and play in the city park whilst all the other children are abed. Mink soon finds herself face-to-face with an unusual visitor, a baby zebra, and discovers that she has a gift for being able to ‘feel’ animals’ emotions and thoughts, beautifully realised by Ogilvie’s artwork in a riotous fanfare of exploding colours. It isn’t long before Gabriel the zebra shares his plight with Mink: his parents have been stolen by a man with an ‘unlovely smile’ who intends to kill them and then stuff them in glass boxes for display along with a host of other animals.
With no time to lose, Mink encourages Gabriel to find his inner warhorse and fight for his parents’ freedom. Employing the help of two more creatures, a cantankerous but delightful dog called Rainbow and a legerdemain-proficient squirrel named Rodentia, they head off in search of the evil, Terry-Thomas-inspired, Mr. Spit. Can they find the courage, wit and tenacity to win the day?
Rundell and Ogilvie share the space so well in what is a delightfully inspired partnership from Bloomsbury. At times, Rundell’s narrative dominates but is always accompanied by Ogilvie’s richly-coloured vignettes. At other times, the words are reduced so that the watercolour, pen and print illustrations can dominate: the escape of the animals from their cages is an absolute delight and a real cavalcade of colour and energy. It is clear that Ogilvie has spent time with the text and chosen key moments to represent with real care.
With a rich cast of cunning animals and a sense of adventure that exudes a similar warmth and humour to Dodie Smith’s One Hundred and One Dalmatians, The Zebra’s Great Escape is a delightful modern-day classic with a strong-willed and determined young girl whose passion for fighting for what is right is something all readers can aspire to.