๐Ÿ“š The Midnight Zoo (Sonya Hartnett)

Read The Midnight Zoo

The Midnight Zoo is a 2010 novel by Sonya Hartnett. It was first published on 1 November 2010 in Australia and was then released in the United States a year later. It follows the story of two gypsy boys that find an abandoned zoo after fleeing a traditional celebration. The novella has gained critical praise for its “lyrical” prose and for the illustrations in the United States version, done by artist Andrea Offermann.


The Midnight Zoo, a zoo of talking animals taken out of their original habitat, but left unattended after an invading army takes the owner away. Three Romany children, Andrej, 12, his brother Tomas, 9, and baby sister Wilma, stumble upon the zoo while escaping the soldiers. The rest of the novel occurs over one night, exploring ideas of freedom and responsibility. All in all, Sonya Hartnett is the children’s author for children who want things a little different.


Alex Baugh provides an interesting commentary on the ending:

Hartnett does not spare the reader any of the horrors of war in her descriptions. ย Knowing this, when I came to the end of the novel, I didn’t not see it as hopeful or life affirming. ย At the end, when the figure of a woman in a dark cape appears, the children and animals see who they want to see, someone they believe will take care of them. ย  For Tomas, she is his mother, for Andrej, she is Saint Sarah, patron saint of the Romany; for the animals, she isย Alice. ย  And when I thought back on the sentence “They had journeyed to the final edge of life beyond which there were no walls,”(pg 214) my initial reaction was that the planes had returned with their bombs and it was the moment of death when the woman called the children come and eagle prepares to fly, but it was also the moment when they have found true freedom in death.

The Midnight Zoo by Sonya Hartnett, illustrated by Andrea Offermann by Alex Baugh

Note, Dr Pam Macintyre has created a useful teaching resources associated with the text.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *