by Robert Paul Weston
illustrated by Victor Rivas Villa
book design by Christian Fuenfhausen
Penguin Group, 2008
review copy provided by the publisher
Zorgamazoo is a novel in verse, but not at all like the ones you're used to. Zorgamazoo is one poem. One 283 page-long poem. In rhyme. Rhyming couplets that can't help but remind you of Dr. Seuss at times.
Dr. Seuss rhymes with a little Roald Dahl thrown in -- the main character, Katrina Katrell, is a spunky little girl who has been abandoned by her rich and disinterested parents to the care of an evil guardian who wants to have Katrina lobotomized. The book design has hints of Geronimo Stilton, with fonts of varying size and style used to enhance and illustrate the telling of the story and keep things moving along briskly.
Katrina's fate intertwines with that of Mortimer Yorgle, a zorgle who is rather a stick in the mud compared to his adventuresome but failing-in-health father. Katrina bravely runs away from her evil guardian and Morty wins a lottery whose prize is a quest to discover what's happened to the zorgles of Zorgamazoo. Luckily, Morty gets lost and winds up in the same dark, deserted subway station as Katrina, just in time to save her from a gang of thugs. After hearing Morty's story of the lost zorgles of Zorgamazoo, Katrina begs to join him in his quest (having nothing better to do and no home to return to, after all).
The story gets more and more convoluted, as our characters find themselves (and the zorgles of Zorgamazoo) trapped on the moon, and the struggle of good vs. evil takes the form of enchantment and imagination vs. boredom and tedium.
Yes, I have read over what I have written, and yes, I am aware that it sounds like I am babbling. This book defies any kind of description that makes complete sense. You'll just have to get a copy and read it. It might make a fabulous read aloud, but only if the listener is snuggled up beside you and can see the pictures and the way the words play around on the pages.
Visit the Zorgamazoo website to meet the characters, read an excerpt, and get ideas for using the book in your classroom.
Robert Paul Weston blogs at Way of the West.
Examples of illustrator Victor Rivas' illustrations are here.