"What is now proved was once only imagined."
Yep, we're rocking the intro with a William Blake quote.
The menagerie in McGrew's zoo shows us pure imagination at work. The closest we come to typical zoo fare are hybrid creatures like the ten-footed lion (5.2) and the Elephant-Cat (7.3). Meanwhile, the Thwerll (21.1) looks like it wouldn't belong in any zoo on this world—or any other planet for that matter. And it's all created so a lone boy can fill his imaginary zoo with something the visitors (also imagined) will love to see.
The fantastical animals demonstrate just how fun imagination can be, and when children see this much fun happening right in front of them, they just have to give it a shot. That's great for the parents and teachers among us. We're always looking for ways to teach our young ones the skills necessary to succeed in the "real" world. Lucky for us, the "imaginary" world seems to be the place where they'll actually learn them. We believe that's called irony.
According to Reader's Digest, imagination helps children develop social skills, bolster self-confidence, boost intelligence, work through fears, and build language skills. Wow, all that from just playing around in your own head?
We're going to add one more thing to that list—something that's very important for If I Ran the Zoo in particular.
As Blake said in the quote above, what we know as real today began in someone's imagination. Gravity is a common enough thing today, but no one realized it even existed until Newton imagined it. The same can be said for the Theory of Evolution, which was thought up by not only Charles Darwin but also Alfred Russel Wallace. Must have been all that stroking of those epic beards these guys were sporting.
But McGrew will never discover a Bustard (10.3), a Flustard (10.5), or a Nerd (32.12). Will he? He could never travel to those places "you don't read about in geography books" (11.3) like Motta-fa-Potta-fa-Pell (12.2), right? But that's missing the point entirely. McGrew's imagination is only meant to set him on the path, and even if he doesn't discover the creature he's looking for, he might find or learn something new there all the same.
After all, Seuss imagined the Nerd (32.12) specifically for If I Ran the Zoo, and today, we actually have nerds. They're everywhere at Shmoop. Sure, they are nothing, nothing, like the stumpy, mutton-chopped thingies Seuss fashioned, but they are real nonetheless. Can you even conceive of a world without nerds today? We couldn't, and to be honest, we don't want to.
And that's McGrew's zoological creations: an allegory showing us why imagination is important and also providing a little bit of those all-important creative juices themselves. Things might not come true exactly as a child imagines it, but she'll be on the path to discover something new—something real—all the same.
For your listing pleasure, here's the entire menagerie: