Rocklin, Joanne. The Five Lives of Our Cat Zook. Amulet Books, April 2012. 240p. $16.95. 978-1-4197-0192-4.
Oona is your typical spunky, ten-year-old who tells stories and uses wise phrases to mask her hurt. “You can know and not know something at the very same time – ever notice?”
She has a secret love interest who is older and doesn’t really know she exists. "I really don't know how to talk to a boy in junior high who has his own smartphone."
She also has a five-year-old brother, Freddy, whose life she wants to make easier. "..we're always so scared that he'll go back to that time when he was really wasting away, after our father died, two years ago."
When they find Zook, it’s like an answer to a prayer. They bring this stray beat up cat home, change his name from Mud, and make him their own. When Zook has to go to the vet for failing kidneys, Oona’s storytelling and theory-making kick into overdrive. When her mom gets a new boyfriend, the very one Oona is sure has caused Zook misery and pain, she has to find a way to tell her mom the truth, even if it means she will lose her happiness. "Happiness is all over her...Her shiny orange hair is shooting off happiness sparks"
Rocklin takes the typical and adds her own spin. The stories Oona tells of Zooks past lives are fun and imaginative and include rebuses that she uses to teach Freddy how to read. In this way she remembers her father, along with wearing his old sweatshirt every.single.day. The story moves in a chronological fashion with Oona’s theories and tales of Zook's previous lives interspersed. Oonas theories serve to give us insight into her character and why she behaves as she does. We also see Dylan, mom's boyfriend, and Terri, the mom, getting closer as the book progress. And since Dylan RW (rhymes with) villain, we know what the big confrontation will be, we just aren’t sure how Rocklin will bring things together to make it happen. Rocklin’s knowledge of cats and vets lend the story a sense of authenticity. I would give this one to fourth – sixth graders especially those who are interested in writing.
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The Five Lives of Our Cat Zook.
ARC provided by Blue Slip Media and Amulet Books - many thanks to both.