Today Biblio Links welcomes author Joanne Rocklin!
Joanne Rocklin is the award-winning author of middle grade and early readers, including One Day and One Amazing Morning on Orange Street, For Your Eyes Only!, Strudel Stories, The Very Best Hannukah Gift, This Book Is Haunted, How Much Is That Guinea Pig in the Window? and One Hungry Cat. Her latest middle grade novel, The Five Lives of Our Cat Zook, has only been out for two weeks, and has already garnered a starred review from Booklist, who says: “The only imperfection in this novel is that it ends.”
Story summary from IndieBound: In this warmhearted middle-grade novel, Oona and her brother, Fred, love their cat Zook (short for Zucchini), but Zook is sick. As they conspire to break him out of the vet’s office, convinced he can only get better at home with them, Oona tells Fred the story of Zook’s previous lives, ranging in style from fairy tale to grand epic to slice of life. Each of Zook’s lives has echoes in Oona’s own family life, which is going through a transition she’s not yet ready to face. Her father died two years ago, and her mother has started a relationship with a man named Dylan—whom Oona secretly calls “the villain.” The truth about Dylan, and about Zook’s medical condition, drives the drama in this loving family story.
I asked Joanne, a former elementary school teacher herself, how her book fits into the classroom.
Biblio Links: A student walks into my library and I think, That kid needs a copy of The Five Lives of Our Cat Zook. Who is this kid?
Joanne Rocklin: The reader of my new book is anywhere from seven years up, and even a bit younger, as I think Zook makes a good read-a-loud.
That kid enjoys contemporary realistic fiction, but also funny, fantasy stories, because my main character Oona enjoys making up stories about her cat’s previous lives for her little brother.
This potential reader also likes to write his or her own stories and has begun to wonder how “real” authors do it. Oona believes (as do I) that the writing process is the same for everyone, published or unpublished, young or older. Oona has some interesting theories about storytelling.
Oona herself feels that her story would make a reader “feel good,” especially if the puzzle pieces of Oona’s life “are pieces of that person’s puzzle, too.” So perhaps the student comes from a multicultural background, or has suffered a painful loss, or his or her family dynamic is changing. Maybe she or he harbors a secret crush on someone, or wonders about the meaning of “true” love. Or has thoughts about magic, God, wishing, different levels of fibbing, friendship, happy-endings, why and when taffy melts-in-the-mouth in exactly seven seconds, or the difference between cat-owners and dog-owners. A kid who loves animals would especially love my book, I believe. Oona has theories about all of the above.
Or maybe that kid just wants a pleasurable, moving, funny read with characters s/he will like a lot. I think my book fits the bill. I spent a few intense years with Oona and her brother, Fred, their friends and family, and loved every minute of it.
Biblio Links: If this book sounds like it has a little something for everyone, it does! We’re waiting for our copies to arrive at our school library, and when they do, I’ll be recommending this book to all kinds of kids.
If we were to peek into a classroom where a teacher is using your book in a lesson or with a small group, what might we see?
Joanne Rocklin: On my website is a free Activity Kit for THE FIVE LIVES OF OUR CAT ZOOK. I think that teachers will find it useful! It includes discussion questions about the book itself, fun rebuses (mirroring the kind Oona used with her brother), activities centered around students’ family trees, people’s names, conversation starters, the drawing of illustrations from words, and Oona’s wonderful Rainbow Whopper Theory. You may even witness the cooking of fried zucchini.There’s a good chance you would hear the teacher reading the book aloud, or see the book’s trailer, as the teacher introduces the book for independent reading. If you’re lucky, you will arrive in time for the students’ Reader’s Theater, based on Oona’s own original tales.
Biblio Links: I’m looking forward to trying out the Reader’s Theater activities with students! Teachers and librarians, I’d also recommend showing the trailer to get kids predicting the kinds of tales Oona will be spinning about Zook’s past lives.
Where can teachers, librarians and students learn more about you and your book?
Joanne Rocklin: Please go to www.joannerockin.com/
Everything is there–Activity Kit. Trailer. Reviews. Photos (especially of the Muse–okay, “Mews”–that inspired me. My anti-writer’s block-blog. Info about my school and library visits. Essays and interviews about writing and other things. And how to contact me for even more information!
Natalie, thanks for the opportunity to answer these great questions.
Thanks for stopping by, Joanne!
Click here to read rave reviews of The Five Lives of My Cat Zook andJoanne’s other books.
The Nitty Gritty~
Publisher: Amulet Books (Abrams)
Publication Date: April 1, 2012
Number of Pages: 240