Set on a French canal, this novel stars a Vietnamese-born girl who excavates secrets from when the Nazis invaded France. "Readers will be swept away by the evocative images and emotive scenes in this story, offering a mix of bitter and sweet," wrote PW in a starred review. Ages 13-up. (June) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
A Vietnamese girl, named Zazoo by her adopted grandfather when he brought her to his village in France, tells about meeting a boy from Paris with a strange tale of long-ago love, and about getting acquainted with Felix Klein, the Jewish pharmacist, who lost everyone he loved in that Awful Time (WW II) when the village was occupied by the Nazis. Now Zazoo's grandfather Grand Pierre and Monsieur Klein are elderly men who have not talked to one another for 45 years, filled with guilt and hatred. Grand Pierre is recognized as a hero in his village, but he knows that being a hero means that he was a killer, and he has spent many long years since the war consumed by guilt. His adoption of Zazoo, whose parents were blown up by an abandoned landmine in Vietnam, is part of his healing process. Zazoo slowly gets the story worked out, piecing together what she hears from Grand Pierre, from Monsieur Klein, and from the boy Marius who has come to the village searching for happiness for his own grandmother. This is an unusual story, especially for YAs, but one that will appeal to readers who enjoy the beauty of a poetic story told about love growing and love lost. Zazoo offers the unique voice of a young girl awakening to her own love for Marius as she finds out about the tragic losses her beloved grandfather and Felix Klein endured. The setting couldn't be more romantic, with Zazoo and her grandfather living on a canal, tending the lock, and Zazoo spending most of her time on the water, on her boat that she and her grandfather built, or swimming underwater amid the reeds and lilies, and waiting for the ice to form in the winter so she can skim on the water's surface with her ice skates. Zazoo is awise girl, perhaps because of being so close to her grandfather, who now needs her help more and more as his memory fadeshe even forgets where to pee. The tragic death of her own parents, far away in Vietnam, where she was born but which she cannot remember, and being an Asian girl in a French village where no one else is Asian, cause her to be isolated from everyone but her grandfather. This feeling of otherness is one reason why Marius, who thinks she is beautiful, becomes so important in her life, as does Monsieur Klein, who understands that she needs support as her grandfather becomes more and more infirm. Many YA readers will need some introduction to Zazoo, especially if the French setting and the multilayered nature of the storytelling seem too challenging at first. It may take several chapters before the novel's many enticements capture the reader. KLIATT Codes: JSRecommended for junior and senior high school students. 2001, Houghton Mifflin, Clarion, 255p., $15.00. Ages 13 to 18. Reviewer: Claire Rosser; September 2001 (Vol. 35 No. 5)
Zazoo tells the story of a thirteen-year-old girl on the brink of womanhood who questions not only her past, but also the history surrounding her adoptive grandfather, the village pharmacist who loathes him, and a boy on a bike whose one question about the pharmacist becomes the catalyst that unearths the connections between them all. After her Vietnamese parents were killed by a land mine, the two-year-old Zazoo was brought to a small French village by her adoptive grandfather, Grand-Pierre. She and Grand-Pierre live in an old stone mill between a canal and a river and have a loving relationship filled with shared poetry and companionable outings. Raised next to water, Zazoo finds solace in swimming swiftly through the reeds and rushes. It is during one of her early morning swims she meets Marius, a strange boy on a bike, who asks about Monsieur Klein, the village pharmacist. Zazoo, who is on friendly terms with the old man, agrees to investigate without revealing the boy. The two delight in each other's differences—he, calm and quiet unlike most other boys and she, an independent water goddess with lovely dark eyes. And as gentle as the water that flows down the river, so does their burgeoning long-distance relationship develop, consisting of poetic messages scrawled on stiff postcards. Once Zazoo asks Monsieur Klein about his past, one question leads to another. Slowly, the mysteries of war, love, and loss are unraveled. To her surprise, Zazoo discovers that Monsieur Klein and her grandfather have been locked in a forty-eight-year-old grudge. And just as she learned the way of water, Zazoo dives and resurfaces into their pasts and present, learning when to hold back and when to keepasking. With her persistence, love, and compassion, as well as the exciting story of Marius's connection to Monsieur Klein, Zazoo brings old enemies together and helps heal deep wounds. Zazoo, written by Richard Mosher, is incredibly poignant. For all its provincial charm, it addresses very real issues of adoption, World War II and the Vietnam war, love affairs, misunderstandings, the stubborness and sorrow of old men, and the sometimes difficult experience of a Vietnamese French girl searching for her place in the world. The novel is also gorgeously written. Mosher paints Zazoo's world with a gentle beauty and sprinkles it with poetry. But what truly distinguishes this novel from others is its emphasis on dialogue. Mosher allows the characters to tell their stories with quiet dignity, patterned on the rhythms of French. Their interactions are loving and graceful, even in the hardest of conversations, and what they say shows their true hearts. Mosher has created an intimate world in Zazoo. Even the way the book is designed—with chapters starting on either side of the page, almost like a journal—aids in the feeling of diving deeper and deeper into a well of secrets that need to be told before it's too late. It's impossible to put down Zazoo and walk away untouched because the story lines whisper like the murmur of water. This is the kind of book to be read again and again because of the many jewels tucked between its pages. Although Zazoo is a very real story of human pain, it is also a story of hope, healing, and reconciliation. 2001, Clarion Books, 224 pages, Coughlin
Zazoo is a Vietnamese orphan who is being raised in France by her adoptive grandfather, known to Zazoo and the townspeople as Grand-Pierre. Zazoo, rescued from Vietnam at age two and now on the cusp of womanhood, has had an apparently idyllic childhood with Grand-Pierre. But her happiness is now threatened by Grand-Pierre's growing senility, her growing loss of innocence and the slowly emerging truths about Grand-Pierre's and her own past. Part love story and part wartime horror story, this novel, told in first person by Zazoo, is a compelling read. Zazoo is a fascinating, multi-dimensional character who is equally disquieted by her changing physique and the town's wartime secrets and tragedies that have been lurking just below the surface of her awareness. More reflective than action-packed, this book will appeal to readers who are ready to take life's bitter with its sweet. 2001, Clarion Books/Houghton Mifflin, $16.00. Ages 12 up. Reviewer: Judy Katsh
Zazoo, a thirteen-year-old Vietnamese girl living in France, knows very little about her history. She knows that her parents were blown up in Vietnam and that her Grand-Pierre brought her back with him to France when she was just two years old. It takes Marius, a young man she happens to meet, to arouse her curiosity. He asks if her old village's pharmacist is or ever was married, a question she cannot answer. With that one odd question, she realizes how much she does not know about the people in her life, including Grand-Pierre, and sets out to learn about their pasts. From the very first paragraph, Mosher's vivid imagery makes Zazoo's world come to life. Zazoo's reaction to puberty and her desperate desire for doodoons (breasts) are right on target. Sometimes childish but with adult responsibilities, Zazoo is the perfect characterization of a young teen. This book is her tale, a romance with a little history thrown in, and it is told well. Logical but not predictable, the story unravels as Zazoo slowly learns of her Grand-Pierre's past and of how this mysterious young man and the village pharmacist somehow are tied to it. Although the characterization is well doneeach person in the story is fully developed, showing both good and bad traitsthe conflicts are resolved too easily, as seen by the quick reconciliation of two men who had not spoken for decades. Despite this weakness, Zazoo's story is still a worthy addition to any library collection. VOYA CODES: 4Q 4P M J (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Broad general YA appeal; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9). 2001, Clarion, 256p, $16. Ages 11 to 15.Reviewer: Jennifer Rice
Gr 6-10-Brought from her Vietnamese homeland when she was a toddler, 13-year-old Zazoo lives with her adoptive grandfather in France. Their home is an old, stone mill and together they work as lockkeepers on the nearby canal. From the girl's earliest memories, Grand-Pierre has composed poetry with her. Zazoo swims late into the autumn and she loves exploring the local waters in a boat the old man has made for her. Just as soon as the ice is set, they skate by moonlight on the canal. However, Grand-Pierre is undeniably slowing down and with his memory failing, Zazoo has assumed the role of a caregiver. She listens in the night to steer him away from the closet when he needs the bathroom and she spends hours with him, gazing out onto the canal, reminding him of the poems they once recited together. During an early-morning swim, Zazoo meets Marius, an intriguing 16-year-old stranger who questions her about the village pharmacist. The girl befriends the cultured and kindly Monsieur Klein, who holds the key to unlocking the hidden conflicts of her grandfather's younger years. Considered a hero of the Resistance, Grand-Pierre knows the folly of such labels. His story of trauma and loss unfolds through Zazoo's gentle questions and through her growing friendship with Monsieur Klein. As she sorts through the emotions that past tragedies resurrect, she also holds out hope for future meetings with Marius. Zazoo is a beautiful and lyrical novel, with poetry woven throughout. It is a story of love, devotion, and unwavering commitment that bridges generations and cultures.-Alison Follos, North Country School, Lake Placid, NY Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
A slow and almost dreamlike exploration of the myriad ways that the past-especially a cataclysmic past-informs the present. Zazoo, almost 14 at the opening, was adopted from Vietnam at the age of two and lives in an old mill by a French canal with the man she calls Grand-Pierre; he's the lock-keeper. As Grand-Pierre's memory fades, a mysterious and attractive young man bicycles into Zazoo's life, asking questions. Soon Zazoo finds herself probing the past that created her Grand-Pierre, M. Klein, the elderly Jewish pharmacist who alone among the villagers shows no love for Grand-Pierre, and herself, orphaned by a landmine in a later war. Mosher's (The Taxi Navigator, 1996) sense of setting is luminous, and the descriptions of life along the canal evoke Wind in the Willows in their watery beauty. The slow revelation of the many intertwined personal histories is truly elegant, and the several love stories that emerge are almost painfully romantic. Zazoo's voice is honest and distinct as she tells her story; the secondary characters develop with real three-dimensional complexity as well. This is a story of memory and contemplation, not action, with most of the elements unfolding slowly over the course of a year through dialogue and reminiscence. It is perhaps over-constructed in its piecing together of the various plot elements and its drive to tie them up neatly by the end, but patient readers will find themselves forgiving this and the slow pace in their involvement with the language and the characters' evolving relationships, particularly the glorious symbiosis achieved by Zazoo and her Grand-Pierre. (Fiction. YA)
A slow and almost dreamlike exploration of the myriad ways that the past—especially a cataclysmic past—informs the present. . . .The slow revelation of the many intertwined personal histories is truly elegant, and the several love stories that emerge are almost painfully romantic. Zazoo's voice is honest and distinct as she tells her story; the secondary characters develop with real three-dimensional complexity as well. This is a story of memory and contemplation, not action, with most of the elements unfolding slowly over the course of a year through dialogue and reminiscence.
Kirkus Reviews with Pointers
From the very first paragraph, Mosher's vivid imagery makes Zazoo's world come to life. . . .This book is her tale, a romance with a little history thrown in, and it is told well.
VOYA (Voice of Youth Advocates)
Zazoo is a beautiful and lyrical novel, with poetry woven throughout. It is a story of love, devotion, and unwavering commitment that bridges generations and cultures.
School Library Journal, Starred
A lyrical book about memory and living with loss.
SLJ Best Books of the Year
Readers will be swept away by the evocative images and emotive scenes in this story, offering a mix of bitter and sweeet.
Publishers Weekly, Starred
[T]his finely crafted novel, told in Zazoo's authentic first-person narrative, speaks to more than one message; it also evokes the quiet passage of the seasons and the joys of friendship. A novel with a big message well told through the smallest details.