One wispy October dawn, a boy on a bike came and went. Little did almost-14-year-old Zazoo know that this inquisitive, bird-watching bicyclist would hold the key to her past and open a window to the future as well.
The orphaned Zazoo lives alongside a canal with her loving adoptive grandfather, who brought her from Vietnam to his French village when she was just 2 years old. She and her tiny, 78-year-old Grand-Pierre share daily oatmeal, a passion for poetry, and a mysterious history. Why do the villagers seem leery of her gentle grandfather, even though he is often referred to as a war hero? Why does Grand-Pierre call World War II the "Awful Time"? And what happened to the brown-haired Jewish girl with whom he used to dance the tango so gracefully?
Philosophical, compassionate, and exquisitely lyrical, Richard Mosher's Zazoo is one of our favorite teen novels of 2001. Zazoo's voice is dreamily poetic, but the dialogue is immediate and true, and the story carries enough suspense (When will her beloved bicyclist return? What is Grand-Pierre's story?) and romance, past and present, to keep the pages turning quickly. Zazoo's struggle with her increasingly forgetful grandfather, her friendships with Juliette and Monsieur Klein, and a powerful infatuation with her elusive visitor combine to create a multifaceted love story of an extraordinary sort. Along the way, we glimpse a time in history, an awful time, demanding us to ask the big questions about life, love, loneliness, death, war, and heroism--and how to let joy creep into sadness and carry on. Highly recommended. (Ages 13 and older) --Karin Snelson
Zazoo is Vietnamese by birth but feels entirely French. She has lived with her adoptive Grand-Pierre in France in an old stone mill between the river and the canal since she was two, sharing poetry, adventures, and the predictable rhythms of the seasons. Then one misty October morning, a young man on a bicycle rides into Zazoo's small village and asks a question from which many stories begin to unfold. A love story within a love story.
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