This picture book is a plea, in verse, for better treatment of the planet. The boy narrator tells how he woke one night to see coming down his street a parade of bears, reindeer, elephants, moose and caribou, lions and llamas… They make their case eloquently, not only in the verbal narrative but also in the visual, where the many different animals are invested with personality – and to do this is one of Foreman’s gifts. This is a book with an important message and I would recommend it to schools and libraries as a good means of introducing the topic to young children.
In terms of its cry for help from different species and the dream-like sequence in which this message is delivered, Why the Animals Came to Town reminds me of John Burningham’s Oi! Get Off Our Train – a book that is still fresh after more than 20 years. Foreman’s book just doesn’t have quite that élan, though he displays it in some of his other titles on this important subject. I’d love to have seen more spreads like the wordless penultimate one where the boy is left standing in a deserted street as a lightly sketched elephant disappears around a corner – much is suggested here though nothing is stated.