I would bet you have never read anything like Zorgamazoo by Robert Paul Weston. I had certainly never read anything like it. I picked up the book this week at the library mostly because of the recommendation of Mark and Andrea at Just One More Book. If you love children's books and aren't listening to their amazing podcast, you are missing out. Not only do they discuss some wonderful children's books, but they have some great author/illustrator interviews. And do not (and I mean it) miss their recent Rock Stars of Reading tour.
I'm not sure what I was expecting with Zorgamazoo but it defies pretty much any ideas I could have had about it. First I was under the assumption that this was a picture book. I kept checking in the new picture books to find it. But that's not the case. The story is a chapter book, full of adventure and excitement. It does have some pictures but they are small black and white illustrations along with some interesting typography. But the most amazing thing about this book is that it is all told in rhyme. Yes, all 280 pages or so of this book are told in rhyme. I'm no poetry expert so I'm not sure what the actual rhyme scheme is. I found I read it mostly as rhyming couplets.
At first I was sure this would distract from the story. But the rhymes that Weston chooses are very natural sounding. It really doesn't feel like he is stretching too far for any of his rhymes. Instead the rhymes keep the story moving at an almost frantic pace. The story follows Katrina Katrell who is a bright inquisitive child living with a terrible guardian who is convinced she is crazy. When her guardian hires a doctor to give her a quick lobotomy (try explaining that one) she escapes and meets up with Morty the Zorgle, a bumbling creature who's the son of a famous Zorgle explorer. But Morty doesn't like excitement. The two are thrown together on an adventure to save some Zorgles that have disappeared. I don't want to go too far into the plot for fear of spoiling it. Please believe me when I say you must read this book. It is a fantasy adventure that was literally out of this world.
I'm a big fan of rhyming although all of the rhyming books I have ever seen tend to be picture books. That kind of wordplay isn't normally sustained for too long a period of time. But Weston pulls it off flawlessly. Not only does he create a magical book of rhymes but he creates a story that has excitement, danger, and likable characters. I could not put this book down. I had to keep turning the pages to find out what odd situation the two would get into next. The plot is silly and poignant at the same time and children will love this book as a read aloud. The rhymes are just so perfect. I am in awe of the work that this book took to create. The author makes what had to be an incredibly tough book to write seem effortless. An amazing book. You have seriously never read anything like this.