Weston, R.P. (2008). Zorgamazoo. New York: Razorbill.
Adventurous and imaginative, Katrina Katrell sees a creature in the subway system. This flight of fancy proves to be the final take-off for Katrina’s guardian who promptly arranges for her charge to be lobotomized. Overhearing said plan, Katrina escapes and is reunited with the creature she saw in the subway, a Zorgle named Morty, who has been chosen to find the missing Zorgles of Zorgamazoo. Together they embark on a quest. Oh, and the entire book is told in rhyming couplets.
From the opening couplets, it is obvious this fantastic book in verse is meant to be fun to read. It has a Dr. Seuss-Alice in Wonderland-The Tale of Despereaux vibe, with elaborate and inventive rhymes and direct addresses to the readers. A few of the rhymes do feel forced, but if you attempt to rhyme for 280 pages, there are bound to be a few moments of stumbling.
Since it’s often around fourth or fifth grade that students’ love for poetry tends to sputter and then die tragically never to be resurrected, this book could help keep the fire of poetic love a burnin’. (Metaphor gone too far and too gross?)
While there (sadly) is no audio version of this book, a teacher could share a bit of Weston's self-recording of him doing a short read aloud of part of the book before taking over him or herself. Even as a read aloud, students should still have access to look at the narrative, since portions of the text take on the form of a concrete poem.
Activities to do with the book:
While this book (as with most poetry) is a good read aloud, children will want to see the illustrations and the way some of the poetry is laid out on the pages, so it will probably be best if the students also have copies to look over as the teacher reads.
Students could create their own illustrations to accompany the text or their own poems in response. A teacher could also trigger conversations on the nature of being a hero, being an outsider, being imaginative, having to live in the shadow of a parent, having to deal with parental pressure, etc.
Plus, since the couplets do make use of some ear and eye rhymes and similes, a teacher could mention some of the rules of poetry, but I personally wouldn’t be too forceful about it, what with wanting to maintain a fiery passion for poetry instead of kill said passion.
Also, since there are some large vocabulary words, the poetic form may help kids to sound out said words for themselves if a teacher pauses to focus on those words or if a student is reading the book on their own. A teacher could encourage students to research many of the mythical creatures mentioned throughout the text.
When starting and finishing this book, it would be fun to allow students to bring in blankets and pillows to help make the read aloud comfortable. A teacher could also prepare some hot chocolate to prepare the atmosphere.
“Here is a story that’s stranger than strange.
Before we begin you may want to arrange:
a comfortable seat,
and maybe some cocoa and something to eat” (p. 3).
“Morty!” he bellowed, “you dithering dupe!
You stink! Like a heap of my goopiest poop!” (p. 28).
“He couldn’t just sit there, he couldn’t just wait.
He’d been poked…by the ficklest finger of fate!” (p. 56).