Zink: The Myth, the Legend, the Zebra

Zink: The Myth, the Legend, the Zebra

by Cherie Bennett, Young Cancer Patients and Survivors Staff
     
 

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"Inspired by an actual child's life and writings, this tale of a young leukemia victim will elicit both tears and laughter." — Booklist, Boxed

Becky Zaslow's leukemia diagnosis has introduced her to a world she never knew existed, a scary world of hospitals and blood counts and chemotherapy. Ten-year-old Becky is afraid. But she doesn't have to go

Overview

"Inspired by an actual child's life and writings, this tale of a young leukemia victim will elicit both tears and laughter." — Booklist, Boxed

Becky Zaslow's leukemia diagnosis has introduced her to a world she never knew existed, a scary world of hospitals and blood counts and chemotherapy. Ten-year-old Becky is afraid. But she doesn't have to go through this alone . . . she's got a trio of singing zebras to keep her company! A herd of zebras from the Serengeti plains forges a special spiritual bond with Becky. They boost her spirits by telling her the story of Zink, a polka-dotted zebra with the most courage and the biggest heart. "Think Zink," the zebras tell her when things get bad. And when Becky does as they say, her soul voyages to Africa, where her imagination can run as free as the zebras.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Adapted from a play Bennett (University Hospital, reviewed below) wrote for young audiences, this uneasy mix of fantasy and realism focuses on a sixth-grader's fatal bout with leukemia. At first there are two separate threads, and the narrative jumps jarringly between them. On the grassy plains of East Africa, a herd of zebras listen to their leader tell stories of a legendary spotted zebra called Zink. Meanwhile, self-conscious Becky Zaslow is diagnosed with leukemia. The narratives merge when representatives of the zebra brood pass into the human world to visit Becky in the hospital (where only she can see and hear them). While still a patient, she is in turn twice transported to their homeland. There, though her pain disappears, she faces such challenges as escaping from a band of marauding lions and swimming across a raging river with--literally--a monkey on her back. The hospital scenes stand out for their authenticity, and Becky's bravery in facing cancer becomes all the more poignant as a result of Bennett's candor in setting forth the girl's ordeals. But the flights of fancy come across as a bizarre contrast, not of a piece with Becky's experience. Ages 8-12. (Oct.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Children's Literature - Rebecca Joseph
Two worlds collide for ten-year-old Becky: the huge Serengeti Plain of Tanzania and the small hospital room in a children's cancer ward. Fighting life-threatening cancer, Becky encounters a trio of singing zebras whose visits bolster her spirits. When her treatments become too painful, the zebras enable Becky to travel with them to Africa where they try to escape predatory lions. Accompanied by lovely illustrations by young cancer patients and survivors, this moving novel reveals the true courage it takes for young cancer patients to fight their illnesses as well as the power of children's imaginations..

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780440228103
Publisher:
Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
03/13/2001
Pages:
256
Product dimensions:
5.20(w) x 7.64(h) x 0.65(d)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

Africa Day

The football field at Briarly Middle School was ablaze with color. One hundred forty sixth-graders, all in traditional African dress, were scattered in groups around the sun-dappled field. Beads danced brightly in the girls' braided hair, and the scary animal masks most of the boys wore seemed almost alive.

Becky Zaslow sat cross-legged in the bleachers, just below a huge banner that read AFRICA DAY: SEPTEMBER 28. Her class was watching Mrs. Hudson, their language arts teacher, cook ugali, the Tanzanian national dish, and some spicy bean stew over an open fire in a pit dug into the field. Mrs. Hudson had been born and raised in Tanzania, in East Africa, and she'd explained that ugali—a stiff porridge made from ground corn and water—was eaten at almost every meal. The spicy stew came from a recipe her grandmother had taught her.

Becky looked around the football field, where African games, arts and crafts, storytelling, and tribal medicine demonstrations were under way.

Today was the grand finale of their first long study cycle, which had concentrated on Africa. Briarly was on the total immersion method. In math, Becky had used cutouts of African nations to study geometry. In music, she'd learned to sing Swahili songs and to play different African instruments.

But her favorite thing had been working with Ms. Flinn, the art teacher, Mr. Izbecki, the science teacher, and Dr. Keino, an African ecologist from the state university to create a huge scale model of the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania. That model now covered the center of the football field.

They'd fashioned grassy savanna plains from AstroTurf, carved baobab andacacia trees from wood, and painted aluminum foil brownish gray for the muddy Mara River.

But the best part had been making the animals. They'd molded clay to create animals that were indigenous ("native to a country or climate"—the word had been on her last vocabulary test) and painted zebras, lions, warthogs, wildebeests, even a strange antelope called a dik-dik. Hundreds of species lived on the Serengeti, and the model had representatives of most of them.

Before the sixth-graders had begun their work, Mr. Izbecki had shown a film about the Serengeti zebra migration. Thousands of herds of zebras instinctively followed a seven-hundred-mile route in search of grass and fresh water, only to end up nine months later right back where they'd started. All during the perilous journey, the plant-eating (herbivorous) zebras were stalked, attacked, and eaten by meat-eating (carnivorous) predators like lions and leopards.

"The laws of nature seem brutal sometimes," Mrs. Hudson said with the tiniest trace of a Tanzanian accent as she stirred the stew. "I once saw a pride of lions eating a young zebra they'd just taken down. Hyenas waited to pick at the bones, and so many vultures circled overhead that they blotted out the sun."

Becky shuddered and looked at the zebra herds on the scale model. They gleamed in the afternoon sun.

"But the parts make a whole that works," Mrs. Hudson went on. "For example, the predators usually take down the weakest zebras, so the animals don't overpopulate and starve to death. Stronger zebras survive to reproduce, you see?"

No, I don't see, Becky thought. Why should any zebras have to die?

"So, while I cook, we'll review some things that will be on your exam tomorrow," Mrs. Hudson said.

A few rows away from Becky, Brian Green made a face. A lot of kids didn't like Mrs. Hudson because she was strict and formal with her students. But Mrs. Hudson said her teachers in Tanzania had been the same way with her, and she always spoke of them with reverence.

"Who can define migrate?" Mrs. Hudson asked.

To pass from one region or climate to another for feeding or breeding, Becky thought, but her hand didn't go into the air as some others did. Mrs. Hudson called on Channa Gold, who got it right. Channa was the only other kid in the class besides Becky who got straight A's.

"And the name of Tanzania's most famous poet?" Mrs. Hudson asked.

"Shaaban Robert," Channa answered.

The teacher nodded. "Excellent. Let's review a little Swahili. Micah, the meaning of mimi ni mwalimu?"

I am a student, Becky thought.

"I am a teacher," Micah answered.

Mrs. Hudson nodded. "Correct."

Becky reddened as if she'd said the wrong answer aloud.

"And how does one say zebra in Swahili? Becky?"

Everyone turned to look at her.

"Punda pilia?" Becky ventured nervously.

"No, it's punda milia," Ashley Chaffin corrected loudly. Her smug gaze fell on Becky.

"I'm sorry," Becky said quickly.

"Correct answer, Ashley," Mrs. Hudson said, "but please raise your hand next time."

Ashley was the prettiest, most popular girl in the entire sixth grade. And she had the most power. Becky felt Ashley's predatory eyes still on her. She takes down weak kids just like lions take down zebras, Becky realized.

Ashley was one of the reasons Becky kept her mouth shut most of the time. If you didn't say anything, Becky reasoned, you couldn't say the wrong thing. Middle school was so much more treacherous than elementary school. Say the wrong thing, do the wrong thing, even wear the wrong thing, and your life could be over, just like that.


From the Trade Paperback edition.

Meet the Author

Cherie Bennett is the author of Life in the Fat Lane, as well as the series Sunset Island.

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