Sunday, May 15, 2011

Zorgamazoo Book Review

Author: Robert Paul Weston. Release date: 2008. Publisher:  Penguin Group. ISBN: 9781595142955.

Annotation: Katrina Katrell happens upon Morty the Zorgle, and together they decide to uncover the fate of the missing Zorgles of Zorgamazoo. 

Personal thoughts: I had heard a great deal about this award-winning novel, and wasn’t disappointed in how clever and unique it is amongst recent literature for ‘tweens. Weston’s rhymes were simply amazing. While reading the book I couldn’t help but be constantly reminded of the work that must have gone into composing an entire novel, completely in rhyme. For me, the storyline played second fiddle to Weston’s literary craftsmanship. I did enjoy the novel quite a bit, and would definitely recommend it to ‘tweens as well as teachers seeking a fun read-aloud.
Plot summary: Katrina Katrell lives with a distant relative, Mrs. Krabone, who doesn’t understand why the young girl is constantly daydreaming about adventures and mythical creatures. One day when Katrina and Mrs. Krabone are on the subway, Katrina is sure she sees a large, hairy creature wearing a tie and walking around the underground tunnels. Mrs. Krabone is finally fed up, and contacts Doctor LeFang to “cure” Katrina with his horrible Cranial Puncturing Mincer of Mind. Katrina catches wind of the plan, and manages to escape. By chance, she meets up with Morty, a Zorgle, and the very same creature she spotted earlier on the subway. It appears that Morty has been given a quest to find out what happened to the Zorgles of Zorgamazoo, an underground country village where the inhabitants have vanished. Morty is quite timid, but his new friend, Katrina, convinces him to proceed on what she’s sure will be a grand adventure for them both.
Review:  Told entirely in rhyming couplets, Zorgamazoo is a creative and entertaining story for readers of all ages. Perhaps the most amazing thing about Weston’s rhymes is that they never grow stale or seem forced. He does have to employ some made-up words (a nod to Dr. Seuss), but, in general, he manages to rhyme ordinary phrases that ‘tweens will be able to understand. The plot of the novel is also very clever, with nods to influential authors like Roald Dahl and Lemony Snicket, but in an original package. Younger readers might be frightened by Mrs. Krabone and Doctor LeFang, who want to lobotomize Katrina. Some of the illustrations in the book, such as those of the Octomabots, a machine that is a cross between a bee and an octopus, and of Doctor LeFang’s Cranial Puncturing Mincer of Mind, might be frightening as well. Other aspects of the plot, however, like Winnie the Windingo who constantly cries, and an ogre who is extremely attached to his glass eye, will lighten the mood. Overall, Zorgamazoo is a fun novel for readers who are interested in something a little bit different. It would also make  a great read-aloud for a classroom or group of children or ‘tweens.
Genre: Fiction/Fantasy
Reading level: Grade 3+
Similar titles:  James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl, A Series of Unfortunate Events series by Lemony Snicket, any title by Dr. Seuss.
Themes: Bravery, adventure, the importance of imagination.
Awards/Reviews: Positive reviews from School Library Journal, Booklist, Kirkus Reviews, and The Horn Book Magazine. Recipient of 2009 E.B. White Honor Book award, Silver Book Award, nominee for California Young Reader Medal.   
Series Information:  None
Discussion Questions:
- This novel is written entirely in rhyme. Do you enjoy this style of writing? Why or why not?
- Why do you think Mrs. Krabone wants to keep Katrina from being imaginative?
- Do you think Morty is brave? Why or why not?
- What do you think the characters of Zorgamazoo look like? Draw some of your favorites.
- Does this story have a moral? What do you think the moral is?

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