Title: The Five Lives Of Our Cat Zook
Publisher: Harry N. Abrams
Published: April 1, 2012
Source: Won in a Goodreads Giveaway
Read: July 31 2012
In a Few Words: A sweet, colorful, fun story
My Rating: 5 wonderful stars
Goodreads: Add it to your to-read shelf
n this warmhearted middle-grade novel, Oona and her brother, Fred, love their cat Zook (short for Zucchini), but Zook is sick. As they conspire to break him out of the vet’s office, convinced he can only get better at home with them, Oona tells Fred the story of Zook’s previous lives, ranging in style from fairy tale to grand epic to slice of life. Each of Zook’s lives has echoes in Oona’s own family life, which is going through a transition she’s not yet ready to face. Her father died two years ago, and her mother has started a relationship with a man named Dylan—whom Oona secretly calls “the villain.” The truth about Dylan, and about Zook’s medical condition, drives the drama in this loving family story.
Praise for The Five Lives of Our Cat Zook
“Oona’s character is a combination of Harriet the Spy in curiosity and Anastasia in spunk. Another emotionally satisfying outing from Rocklin; hanky recommended.”
I loved this book. The characters are loveable, the wordplay is fun, there are tons of interesting theories told only the way a child would tell them. I loved it for the variety in perspective. It was such a nice change from all the YA and Adult fiction that I normally read.
In this story we meet Freddy and Oona, brother and sister who are being raised by their mother after their father's death. They have a cat, named Zook, who has become a beloved member of their family. When Zook suddenly gets sick, it brings back memories for Oona of the time when her father is sick too, so she has to deal with all of those memories and emotions that she's kept hidden for so long.
This book is full of stories within stories. It's told from Oona's perspective, and man is she one smart kiddo. She has very creative and inventive theories. One is the Big Whopper theory, where all the lies people tell are color coded for the kind of lie that they are. Black Whoppers are meant to hurt someone, White Whoppers are meant to make someone feel better.
Or, there's the name theory, in which Oona declares that everyone's name is perfect for them, no matter what. Here's a quote to explain the theory:
"Gramma Dee's name is easy Dee RW (rhymes with) bee=honey=sweet like candy. Gramma Dee likes to make Russian taffy, which she learned from her Russian grandmother, who was born in Russia." (pg. 49)I think what she's trying to say is that people grow into their name, or the meaning of it. They personify that meaning. I think to some extent that becomes true after a while.
I love the wordplay in this book. The play on words with Zook (the cat's) name. Then there's the fact that the kids get paid in fried Zuchinni and pizza is great, and so are the cute word games that Oona plays with Freddy to teach him to read. I love when authors take the time to add these small but important touches to their stories because it helps you become that more attached to the characters.
Oona also has a lot of responsibility for such a little girl. She picks her brother up from school, she's teaching him to read, (with rhyming games and pictures, which I loved) and she even has an after school job. She gets paid in food, but still. For someone so young, that's a lot to handle, but Oona handles most of what comes her way pretty well. She isn't too fond of her mother's new boyfriend, but for a girl whose beloved father passed away that's not a surprise.
Among all these inventive theories and stories about cats who have 9 lives there are a lot of real life observations and lessons which are told in only the way a child can see them. Children have such a different view of the world than adults. There's such innocence, and yet such depth, as well as insight. It's easy to forget how much insight kids have until you read a story like this. And when you do, boy can it pack a punch.
I feel a bit silly admitting this, but I found myself tearing up at the end of this novel, not because of what happens to the characters, but because of the depth and richness of the lessons that Oona learns and the changes that she goes through throughout the course of the book. Now, it takes a lot for me to cry at a book. I have to be really invested in the story, and this was definitely a story that I was invested in. It's got a little bit of everything. It's a sweet story about family, love, loss, friendships, and growing up. I'd recommend it to anyone who enjoys heartfelt stories.
What about you, do you have any interesting theories that you'd like to share?