Zorgamazoo written by Robert Paul Weston, illustrated by Victor Rivas Villa, 281 pp, RL 3

This year in celebration of National Poetry Month, I want to celebrate by featuring books written in verse instead of books of poetry. I can't think of a better way to start this off than with Robert Paul Weston's marvel, Zorgamazoo. Written entirely in quatrains and couplets, Zorgamazoo screams to be read out loud, although is just as entertaining read on one's own. But, before I share the splendid rhyme schemes of the book, I need to tell you about the enchanting story that provides the structure for this epic poem as well as the perfectly suited illustrations provided by Victor Rivas Villa, who brings just the right level of antic cartoon action and detailed imagination to the characters.
Mortimer YorgleKatrina Katrell
Zorgamazoo could be the literary offspring of Dr Seuss and Roald Dahl. With Dahl-like dastardly characters such as Mrs Gremelda (Krabby) Krabone and Dr Reginald Le Fang, our heroes, the downtrodden but brave Katrina Katrell and oafishly likable slacker Mortinmer Yorgle (a Zorgle) don't seem to have a chance. And, with playfully mellifluous Seussian rhymes, you will slip into this story and the world that Weston creates with utter ease.
Gremelda Krabone
As if Krabby and Dr Fang weren't enough, Katrina and Morty unwittingly uncover an intergalactic plot to strip the earth of every last magical creature, all the handiwork of one Dullbert Hohummer, the Third from the planet Graybalon-Four.
In a truly inspired plot twist, Weston has created a planet populated with peoples who serve as warnings against overconsumption and wasting of resources as well as slothfulness of the spirit and body! Really, this is a huge coup for an author and I expect that teachers and librarians are pouncing all over this double edged lesson as I write! You see, Dullbert hails from the planet of Greybalon-Four where the seemingly natural resource of Tedium Steam has run out. At the urging of politicians,

    They had built up their planet with cities and lanes
    traveled by Graylian trolleys and trains,
    from Graylian houses to Graylian shops,
    while traffic was guided by Graylian cops.

    Most of them toiled at monotonous jobs, 
    manufacturing gadgets and thingamabobs.
    In the evening, they drove along Graylian roads
    to the uniform gray of their boring abodes.

    And then, climbing into their Graylian beds,
    with Graylian reveries filling their heads,
    the Graylian people would finish the day,
    with dreams that, of course, were entirely gray.

    (Think of counting the granules of sand on a beach,
    or imagine a lengthy political speech.
    Just think of the utmost deplorable bore.
    That's ten times as thrilling as Graybalon-Four!)

Once I start with the poem it just flows and flows and it is so hard to know where to stop the quote! As you can tell, besides a great story, one of the most amazing aspects of Zorgamazoo is the delicious language that Weston employs to tell his story in verse. I can't remember the last time I came across such wonderful vocabulary in a kid's book. Occasionally, in service to the rhyme, Weston is forced to take a meandering route around the plot, but I found this to be entirely enjoyable. Words like abundant, ominous, blathering and imperious can be found alongside voluminous, calamitous and cantankerous.
The OgreWinifred Windigo Thistle McPaw
After escaping Krabby and Dr Fang, Katrina bumps into Morty and they head off to Zorgamazoo where they find the town devoid of Zorgles. They do find Winnifred Windigo Thistle McPaw, a creature who might know the secret of the missing Zorgles.

She tells them of the tragedy that occurred right in the middle of a game of zorgally ball -

    Out of the sky came an ominous hummm,
    then a clatter as if from the beat of a drum
    (but without any rhythm, without any flair
    like the growl of an engine in need of repair).

    In an instant, the noise grew incredibly loud,
    and it came, so it seemed, from the gathering cloud.
    The players looked up. They shielded their eyes.
    The cloud was expanding to cover the skies!

    Then, all at once, the cloud disappeared,
    and there, in the air, when it finally cleared,
    humming and hovering up in the breeze,
    were creatures that buzzed like the bumble of bees.

    But bees are so tiny, just wee little shrimps.
    These creature, however, were bigger than blimps!

    And each like an octopus fitted with wings,
    with tentacles twisting like rubbery strings!
    The tip of each tentacle ended in claws,
    looking anxious to nourish these animals' jaws!

The Octomabots are truly creepy! The drawings of them are wonderful and, as I discovered on Weston's blog, a reader even constructed one out of Legos!

Our heroes and Winnie are snatched up by an Octomabot and taken to the moon where all the other magical creatures are from earth are being imprisoned. 
It seems that the sense of enchantment created by these creatures (when seen by humans) inhibits the production of  Tedium Steam, thus, removing them all from the earth will increase the  Tedium Steam and allow Dullbert to harvest it and take it to Graybalon-Four. Katrina saves the day with the discovery of Enchantium Gas and a superb contraption that leads to a happy ending.

Not only are the rhymes, plot and illustrations in Zorgamazoo inventive and playful, but the text is too! Font and font sizes change throughout the story as well as the path of the text itself! If you are reading Zorgamazoo out loud, make sure that listeners see every little bit of creativity packed into this book!

On last superb illustration - this is the lottery machine that sets Morty on the path to adventure, whether he wants it or not!


Donna said...

i didn't even read your entire review before ordering this book online:-) I read your first two paragraphs and knew that I had to own this book. After ordering I clicked back over to finish reading your wonderful review. My oldest is not quite 6 so I might have to wait 6 months before reading it to him, but I know I will enjoy it in the interim. This book sounds so clever and fun. I love books that challenge children with advanced vocabulary. You can see their brains working as they try and decipher the meanings. Thanks again Tanya.

Tanya said...

You are so welcome!! I was so excited when I started researching novels for kids in verse last month and found ZORGAMAZOO. Every other verse novel I came across dealt with some kind of difficult emotional situation. It was such a treat to find a book that combined the playfulness and fantasy of Dr Seuss and Roald Dahl with some superb illustrations! So glad you snapped it up right!

The Spruiters said...

Husband and 6 year old daughter started this one tonight - the report so far is 2 big thumbs up! I think I'll need to read along with them on this one!

Tanya said...

You should read along! It's really fun, great illustrations and you'll probably end up pulling out your dictionary now and again...