________________ CM . . . . Volume XIV Number 22 . . . . June 27, 2008


The One and Only Zoë Lama.

Tish Cohen.
Toronto, ON: HarperCollins Canada, 2008.
256 pp., pbk., $12.99.
ISBN: 978-0- 006395-13- 3.
Grades 4-8 / Ages 9-13.

Review by Brianne Grant.

***½ /4

Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.


Monday Morning. There really isn't anything I despise more than Mondays. Unless you count balloons and usurpers. Not only did my mother spend the weekend looking through the paper for new, burglar free places to live, but I have cold meatloaf in my lunchbox and Devon accused me of hanging up on her on Friday night. Which I did, but only under the threat of an irate mother. Then Monday morning gets about ten times worse when I notice Sylvia and Devon – by some fairy dust coincidence – are both wearing red turtlenecks and jeans. The whole class keeps calling them twins.

I guess Devon's rulebook doesn't have an entry about competing with your clients. While I don't like to brag about it, it's long been a belief of mine that a client is like a bride. The client is meant to bask in the spotlight while I lurk behind the curtains and make them obey me. Like a puppet master. Or Oprah's best friend. Poor little Sylvia doesn't know it yet, but she doesn't have thick enough feathers to be sharing the glow of the spotlight with someone as attention-hungry as Devon. And, just to make my Monday even crappier, Laurel called me last night to say she saw Riley coming out of Devon's house on Sunday!


Tish Cohen has brought one of the most powerful seventh grade leaders back in her new book, The One and Only Zoë Lama. After being kept from school with the chicken pox, Zoë finds that she is at risk of being usurped from her Lama status by a sixth-grader, Devon Sweeney. Chocolate chips are no longer enough to retain even her number one client, Sylvia, and so Zoë and her best friends, Laurel and Susannah, must find a way to redeem her place as the school's one and only Lama.

     The One and Only Zoë Lama begins in the same school year as The Invisible Rules of the Zoë Lama, but the second book could be read independently of the first. In the sequel, Zoë continues to struggle with the loss of her father and her relationships with other students. Her rival, Devon, has an intensely close relationship with her own father, a situation which fuels Zoë's jealousy and desire to protect her Lama status. At school, Zoë makes a series of Lama faux pas - including losing Boris the class guinea pig - and so trumping up support and trust from other students becomes increasingly difficult. This is also met by the fact that her advice becomes mired in a desire to shut down Devon and not to help other people. As Zoë becomes consumed with fighting for her Lama rights, her ability to focus and work in school diminishes, and she drives her number one client away. Of course, these relationship issues are often on par with a good dose of melodrama over things like ownership rights of lockers and the "great glue gun meeting."

     Zoë's sarcasm and quirkiness make all of her experiences – whether big or small – a lively and humourous read. Beneath the fluff and drama of Zoë's world, she is also struggling to grow up without a father and to accept a move from the home where her scant memories of her father are based. Zoë and her mother live in the same apartment that is slowly being taken over by cockroaches, and so her mother has plans to find a better and safer home for Zoë to grow up in. This, of course, is a traumatic blow to Zoë who is also struggling to retain her Lama status at school. Zoë still tries hard to take care of her grandma (or g-ma) who lives in a nursing home and has learned how to have online chats. The difficult living situation, the struggle with loss, and the desire to care for her grandma are undertones that add depth to the lighter storylines that guide Zoë's ‘tween life.

     The One and Only Zoë Lama is a brilliant sequel. Zoë may be a bit bratty and a bit self-righteous at times, but she is highly lovable. Her faults and flaws, tempered by her quick humour, make Cohen's second novel about the Zoë Lama as much fun to read as the first.

Highly Recommended.

Brianne Grant is Executive Councillor-West for IBBY Canada and is a devout believer in the power of chocolate chips to make all things better.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
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