Sunday, February 22, 2015

Book Review: Zorgamazoo

Title: Zorgamazoo
Author: Robert Paul Weston
Genre: Children's Book, Fantasy


A Zorgle's a creature that's rare to be found.
They live out of our sight and far under the ground.
When one catches the eye of Katrina Katrelle
(Our brave heroine in this upcoming tale),
Her caretaker, Krabone, calls her a pain
And threatens to cure her by mincing her brain.
Off runs Katrina, but to her surprise,
She again spots that Zorgle with her very eyes.
Mortimer Yorgle, or Morty, he's called.
He's on an adventure that's just a bit stalled.
You see, all the Zorgles of Zorgamazoo
Have vanished without leaving much of a clue.
Now Morty must find them. Yes, that is his quest.
(He's not a detective but doing his best.)
Katrina's intrigued. She agrees to help, too.
What perils await them at Zorgamazoo?


As you might guess from the summary, this is a 280-page chapter book written in rhymes, much like Dr. Seuss. It had the potential to be a disaster, but it actually works pretty well, once you get used to the sing-song-y voice. The story is clear and exciting and full of imagination. It's a book that begs to be read out loud, good for class story time or before bed reading, and maybe not as good for SSR.

Katrina Katrelle
Katrina Katrelle, our heroine, is brave and spirited and smart, despite an awful upbringing. She lives with an aunt who wants to lobotomize her for seeing Zorgles. After running away, Katrina nearly gets stabbed by a vicious child gang. This is a dark fantasy, so there are some frightening situations and threats of violence--but nothing most kids can't handle. In the end, Katrina rises above her circumstances and proves adept at facing adversary and obstacles head-on.

Morty the Zorgle
Though I like Katrina, I think Morty, the Zorgle, is the real heart and soul of this tale. Like Bilbo Baggins and other reluctant adventurers, he's not sure how he got caught up in this quest and he frequently doubts his own abilities. In contrast to Katrina's horrendous home life, Morty has a wonderful relationship with his father, a former adventurer, now bed-ridden. Though his father can't join in Morty's adventure, he's there in spirit. This comes into play in a crucial, heart-warming scene where Morty realizes how many lives his father has touched.

Although it's supposed to be Morty's quest, Katrina takes it over. She has all the good ideas and does most of the work. I kept waiting for Morty to have his big heroic moment, but when it came, I was a little disappointed. I guess I had higher expectations for him.

The adventures of Morty and Katrina were fun and fresh, filled with Zorgles and Windigo Beasts and creatures I can't even describe about without spoiling the surprise. I love Robert Paul Weston's imagination. One of my favorite bits was a lottery machine, its cranks and gears all lovingly described, that selected heroes for the quest. Overall, Zorgamazoo is an vivid adventure sure to spark wonder (and rhyme) in its readers.


This is just a short rant. It's nothing against Zorgamazoo but more of a discussion about what is or is not appropriate for children's books. In other words, is it acceptable to put children in danger, to threaten them with horrible violence or even death?

I say yes.

Granted I'm not a parent myself, but I do remember being a child. I felt safe and I felt bored and I wanted to have adventures. Books were my escape. I didn't want to read safe children doing boring things, I wanted danger and excitement and a chill up my spine. Instinctively, I knew that books would never kill off a child (until A Taste of Blackberries horrifically shattered that illusion), so I didn't take the fear of death all too seriously. It was just another part of the game.

I bring all this up is because that's how I ended up hearing about Zorgamazoo. I had a discussion with Christy, a member of my Writer's Group (who is a parent), and she agreed. Children's books can be messed up and that's not a bad thing. As proof, she offered up Zorgamazoo, which she and her kids enjoyed, even though it began with a tirade of verbal abuse heaped upon the main character and the subsequent threat of a lobotomy.

I think Robert Paul Weston is simply carrying on the tradition of some of our finest children's books authors, who think nothing of exterminating an entire town by boiling them in water (Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears a Who) or having a group of nice-seeming women conspire to exterminate at least one child per week in a myriad of horrible ways (Roald Dahl's The Witches).

A lobotomy seems rather tame in comparison.

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