Review Blog

Aug 20 2019

Zanzibar by Catherina Valckx

cover image

Gecko Press, 2019. ISBN: 9781776572564. 65p
(Age: 7+) Early Chapter Book. Zanzibar is an ordinary, contented crow who unfortunately begins to believe that he is lacking in some way. Achille LeBlab is to blame. As the special correspondent to the 'Voices of the Forest' newspaper, he is seeking interesting subjects to write about. He tells Zanzibar that apart from his name, there is absolutely nothing special about him.
Without rhyme or reason, Zanzibar reaches the very arbitrary but specific belief that his special talent is the ability to lift a dromedary in the air with one wing.
The quest for an Arabian camel begins and he tells Paulette the mole his intentions. Sidi, the Fennec fox, helps him to find a very thin camel called Cheb. Madam Adelle is a moth yet the postman is a Seagull, named Monsieur Seagull. It seems only animals with jobs have surnames and these describe their species, or their occupation, since the lizard reporter is Monsieur LeBlab.
But will Zanzibar's belief in his ability be justified and will Monsieur LeBlab want to write a story about an incredible feat? Indeed, where is the evidence?
Historically, crows were trouble and not extraordinary. Nearly 200 years ago, the Indian crow was introduced to the island of Zanzibar but spread to the mainland where it very quickly became a pest. Coincidentally, 100 yrs ago, George Bateman translated an East African folktale about a clever crow in his collection, Zanzibar Tales. Science has decided, they are actually extremely good problem solvers.
Thus, the retro look and feel of this children's book hints at the kind of story we will read. But Valckx's Zanzibar is naive, more like the characters in enchanting French classics such as Babar, where animals seem to be concerned with one dimensional circumstances before reaching a simple conclusion. And so . . . we discover that it is never too late to do something incredible.
Learn more about this Dutch author.
Deborah Robins

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