HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: The Five Lives of Our Cat Zook
Author: Joanne Rocklin
Cover Illustrator: Vivienne To
Publisher: Amulet Books, republished in 2013
ISBN-13: 978-1419701924 (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 1419701924 (Hardcover)
ISBN-13: 978-1419705250 (Paperback)
ISBN-10: 1419705253 (Paperback)
Related website: http://www.joannerocklin.com (author). http://www.amuletbooks.com (publisher)
Language level: 2
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Reading level: Ages 8 and up
Rating: **** 4 stars (GOOD)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Rocklin, Joanne. The Five Lives of Our Cat Zook (published in 2012 by Amulet Books, an imprint of Harry N. Abrams, 115 W. 18th St., New York City, NY 10011). How would you feel if your pet became very ill? Ten-year-old Oona Armstrong lives in an Oakland, CA, apartment with her mother Terri, five-year-old brother Fred, and their cat named Zook, which is short for Zucchini. Oona and Fred’s dad Max had died two years before from cancer. Nearby is O’Leary’s Pizza where the kids work to help bring customers in and they get to eat fried zucchini, the only vegetable Fred likes—and thus the cat’s name. Now Zook himself has become sick, so Oona comforts Fred by convincing him that the cat is only on the fifth of his nine lives and telling him some wild stories about some of the previous ones. Will Zook get better? What will happen to him?
Joanne Rocklin is the author of several books, including One Day and One Amazing Morning on Orange Street, Strudel Stories, For Your Eyes Only!, Three Smart Pals, and This Book is Haunted. The Five Lives of Our Cat Zook does use the words “pee,” with reference to both cats and people, and “poopy,” as well as a few common euphemisms. There are some vague references to believing in love, magic, and God. The concept of “karma” is mentioned, and one instance of drinking wine occurs. Mom’s new boyfriend, whom Oona resentfully calls Dylan the villain, is a musician who sports an earring. Many parents will probably not have much problem with most of these items.
However, some parents may demur at Oona’s penchant for telling whoppers, as she does when she tries to sneak Zook out of the vet’s office and bring him home because she feels that he can get better only with them. Although a distinction is made between simple fictional tales intended for amusement or entertainment and outright lies meant to deceive or hurt, the book may become the occasion for some discussion on the importance of always being honest and truthful. Otherwise, this is a warmhearted middle-grade novel about a loving family, and, aside from some of the things which I mentioned earlier, my basic reaction to it is primarily positive. Also, any child who has experienced the serious illness or loss of a beloved pet will certainly appreciate the drama of the story.