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From the Studio


One of my favorite things about watching movies on DVD is the possibility of watching deleted scenes. So, I’d like to take this blogging opportunity to share some deleted scenes from My Heart Is Like a Zoo. I had to choose twenty characters from about fifty contenders to get the book to its current form. Many were easily cast aside, but a few were hard for me to reject, having nurtured them from little scribbles to their almost finished form.

It felt particularly odd to reject “rejected as a skunk.” The simile didn’t work well, but I loved the little skunk.

On the other hand, the absence of the skunk made it less awkward to remove its large rhyming partner, the elephant (who was never really going to make it, anyway).      

The skunk had evolved from “sneaky as a masked raccoon,” another beloved critter. A variation on its body style was eventually snatched by “crafty as a fox.”

There is a quiet caterpillar wearing knitted socks in the final book. But a number of the characters tried them on too. I was particularly impressed with the octopus who managed to find a matching set of eight.

There were way too many characters who were constantly in a huff about one thing or another. Toward the end, I finally ditched “prickly as a porcupine” . . .

and “snappy as an crocodile whose upper fang was loose.”

One character was rejected on a technicality. I so loved the simple little mountain goat and tried to sneak it in under the “lonely” category. Not convinced that there is anything particularly lonely about mountain goats, I placed it in a desolate mountain scene to emphasize the point. This turned out to be a major violation of the “no scenic background” rule. It was my own fault, really.

Early in the process, I tried using related pairs of animals. Two strong advocates of that approach were “sharp as an
 eagle” and “blind as a bat.”

There were lots of silly animals. One was this clownfish.

Finally, I always thought there would be a place for this dainty rhinoceros. But it didn’t come to be.

There are, of course, endless possibilities. I’m looking forward to seeing what schoolchildren come up with.

Happy 35th, Greenwillow!

Michael Hall
is the author of My Heart Is Like a Zoo, which is being published this month. He is an award-winning designer whose work has been widely recognized for its simple and engaging approach to sometimes complicated problems. Michael Hall is the co-owner and principal designer at Hall Kelly, Inc., and lives with his family in Minnesota.


  1. cindy says:

    what fun to read! and my favorite
    reject is the porcupine. awww! maybe
    in another book the prickly will
    make the cut? the elephant and octopus
    need to go drink at a bar together, i think.

  2. Kristin says:

    Oh I love that sweet porcupine, too. And the lonely goat. Thank you so much for posting these.

  3. Abby says:

    This book, its trailer, and these deleted scenes have fascinated kindergarten to 6th graders in our school. Thanks for sharing these ‘critters’ designed creatively in still-form and in animation. What a true delight! For lessons on writing, I am using the eagle and bat idea next!

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