________________ CM . . . . Volume XV Number 2 . . . . September 12, 2008

cover Zorgamazoo.

Robert Paul Weston.
New York, NY: Razorbill (Distributed in Canada by Penguin Canada), 2008.
169 pp., pbk, $17.50.
ISBN 978-1-595141-199-6.

Grades 5-8 / Ages 10-13.

Review by Myra Junyk.

**** /4

Reviewed from Advance Reader’s Copy.

excerpt:

We begin in a subway, under the ground,
where people in trains go rolling around,
in hurrying haste and in scurrying mobs,
wandering off to their ponderous jobs.

Much of the time they would linger in vain.
They would stand in the station awaiting a train.
They would push in between the ticket machines,
like fish huddled into a tin of sardines.

They clutched at the purses and cases they brought,
anxious and angry and over-wrought,
hoping a train would come barreling past,
pick them up quick, and dash away fast!

There was one little girl who waited as well:
A girl by the name of Katrina Katrell
While everyone else was busy or bored,
this one little girl should not be ignored.
For unlike the crowd, she was never inert.
Her senses were sharp and awake and alert.

She kept to herself, but she wasn’t alone.
She was joined by her guardian, Mrs. Krabone,
who stood with Katrina, clutching her hand,
in the flickering light of the passenger stand.

 

The saga of intrepid Katrina Katrell is told in poetic form. Although Katrina is not an orphan, she is left in the care of a distant relative, Mrs. Krabone, by her workaholic parents. When Katrina sees a mysterious shadowy figure in the subway, she tells “Krabby” who promptly calls her a liar! In order to “help” the highly imaginative Katrina (who sees things on a regular basis), Mrs. Krabone decides to call in the evil Doctor LeFang to “cure” her by taking out part of her brain! Of course, when Katrina hears this, she runs away in terror!

      Meanwhile in the underground land of the zorgles, Mortimer Yorgle (Morty) works as a reporter at The Underwood Telegraph Rumor Review. He neglects his job because he frequently visits his critically ill father at the hospital. One day on the way to the hospital, Morty sees the Ballplayers Hallway of Fame on fire. Fearlessly, he runs into the building and rescues some of the precious relics. Although he is overcome by the smoke and fire, the firemen come to his rescue. Morty becomes a hero and is sent on a quest to find the countryside zorgles who have mysterious disappeared. His father is thrilled, and Morty reluctantly decides to go on the quest for the sake of his ailing father.

      At the exact same moment, Katrina happens into the lair of the infamous Gang of McCrook where she is attacked. Fortunately, Morty is wandering by and saves her life! Since she has nowhere else to go, Katrina decides to travel with Morty. Now our two heroic characters are united in the quest to find the lost zorgles. They travel far and wide, have wonderful and exciting adventures, and finally arrive at Zorgamazoo — only to find a ghost town. With the help of Winnie the windigo beast, they discover that all the zorgles have been eaten by mysterious octopus-like creatures. Suddenly, a creature swoops down — and eats all three of them! However, our heroes do not die! They are transported by space ship to the Moon where they find themselves in the Moonagerie Crypt with all the other fantastic creatures of the Earth! Through a series of exciting and action-packed events, the intrepid heroes return everyone back to Earth!

      Robert Paul Weston has created two very appealing characters in Katrina and Morty. Katrina’s desperate home situation will remind readers of many other heroic literary orphans — Oliver Twist, Harry Potter, Eragon and the Baudelaire children. Even though she is not an orphan, her parents have abandoned her because they are too busy working. This unfortunate situation is a commentary on the priorities in our society! Katrina is not only imaginative and inventive, but she is also fearless and very loyal. Morty, on the other hand, is a reluctant hero. When he is appointed as an official “hero,” he doesn’t think he deserves the honour or believe that he has any heroic qualities. However, he soon proves that he is a courageous and ingenious person — a true hero!

      Perhaps the most appealing aspect of this book is its unusual approach to narration. Told totally in the poetic form of the epic and ballad form, the rhythm and rhyme make this a very interesting, memorable and melodic story! Many readers will not be aware that the poetic form was once virtually the only form of storytelling when stories were passed down orally! Readers can make text-to-text connections to other quest stories such as Shrek, Alice in Wonderland and even Homer’s Iliad. The fact that many fantastic creatures from stories and legends — yetis, mermaids, phoenixes, ogres — are mentioned may encourage readers to do research to find out what these creatures look like and where they appear on the literary stage. The unusual use of font size to emphasize particular points is very effective. Near the very beginning of the book, the author even dares readers to “put this book down” if they don’t like reading about imaginary creatures. And finally, the quirky but interesting illustrations in pen and ink bring some of Weston’s more unusual creatures to life! What a wonderful way to re-awaken the enchantment of the imagination for readers — young and old!

Highly Recommended.

Myra Junyk is the former Program Co-ordinator of Language Arts and Library Services at the Toronto Catholic District School Board. Currently, she is working as a literacy advocate and author.

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

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.

Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.
 

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