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ZIZOU CORDERis the not-so-secret identity of Louisa Young and Isabel Adomakoh Young, who have been writing together since Isabel was seven. They have written five books together: the Lionboy trilogy, Lee Raven, Boy Thief and Halo.
Gr 4-8-Charlie, a boy who communicates with felines, uses his ability as he sets off to rescue his kidnapped parents. He joins a floating circus that happens to be headed in the right direction, and teams up with some lions, planning their escape in return for their help with his quest. The boy's enemies include a teenage thug who's been hired to catch him and a jealous lion trainer who wants to use Charlie to further his own career. Numerous plot twists and shifts in setting keep things moving briskly, but unevenly. Charlie's flight with the lions to a Paris train station is suspenseful, for example, but his rescue by the King of Bulgaria is too contrived to be involving. The large cast of supporting characters also brings mixed results, ranging from several unmemorable villains to some fairly interesting cats. Charlie himself is brave and smart, regularly applying his parents' wise advice when in a tough spot, but he never comes alive as a truly distinct or particularly interesting hero. His knowledge of cat speech makes an intriguing plot device, but that skill doesn't seem to influence his personality or thought process much. Still, it's a fascinating premise, and sets up some surprising and exciting situations. The book concludes mid-adventure, with Charlie still on the way to rescue his parents. In an unconvincing wrap-up, he decides that they must certainly be safe for now and suddenly gains confidence that he will succeed. Despite weaknesses, there's some inventive storytelling here, and readers who stick with it will look forward to the sequel.-Steven Engelfried, Beaverton City Library, OR Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
This first volume (by a mother-daughter team writing under one name) in a planned trilogy melds a rousing traveling circus adventure with shades of cautionary science fiction. The near-future setting serves only to explain the absence of cars and the presence of the debilitating allergies they have caused. Otherwise, the story feels 21st-century in nearly every respect. Charlie's parents, both scientists, disappear from their home in Britain, and Charlie suspects foul play. Through flashbacks, readers learn that Charlie can communicate with cats (while he was in the jungle with his father as a toddler, Charlie's blood commingled with that of a leopard cub). Through a network of cats (who feel indebted to Charlie's parents for reasons that become clear later in the novel), Charlie is able to track the scientists, who have been kidnapped by a nebulous organization called The Corporacy. His journey to rescue them makes for a page-turning read, as he becomes the helper to a lion trainer on a circus boat bound for Paris. The ending may leave readers in a lurch, but the idea introduced toward the conclusion-that a company's best interests may not be in the cure to a disease (allergies), but rather in the profits to be made from the sale of its remedies-provides much food for thought, and fodder for future installments. Corder's most profound metaphor might be Charlie's slick analogy: that those employed by a corporation are not so different from the beautiful lions trapped in cages, held captive to "perform tricks they don't want to perform, to hand over their specialness and their skills." Ages 8-up. (Dec.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.