Zoe’s Extra­or­di­nary Hol­i­day Adventure

Christi­na Minaki
  • Review
By – March 14, 2012
Zoe is frus­trat­ed at being in a wheel­chair and hav­ing a body that doesn’t always do what she wants it to do. She’s great at writ­ing poet­ry, but it’s hard for her to do art projects, tie knots, cut with scis­sors, or but­ton things. She adores her ser­vice dog, Ella, a choco­late brown Labrador retriev­er, thinks that her old­er 12-year-old broth­er, Simon, is usu­al­ly ok, and feels that her lov­ing par­ents are over-pro­tec­tive. She’s afraid that her life is doomed to be ordi­nary because she is in a wheel­chair, and she longs for adven­tures. Her African- Amer­i­can teacher teach­es their fourth grade class about Kwan­za, and she also learns from her class­mates about the Jew­ish hol­i­day of Hanukkah, the Hin­du hol­i­day of Divali, and the Eid feast day at the end of Ramadan. The Jew­ish inter­est relates to her best friend Anna, who cel­e­brates the Jew­ish Sab­bath and Hanukkah. Zoe learns about the mean­ing of the hol­i­day, lights the meno­rah, plays the drei­del game, and eats jel­ly donuts called suf­ganiy­ot. In turn, Anna helps Zoe and her broth­er make gin­ger­bread hous­es at Christ­mas. They have a great time until Zoe’s dog Ella, gets sprayed by a skunk. Luck­i­ly, her friend Ruby’s grand­moth­er, Nali­ni, who is from India, comes to their res­cue. It takes four baths until the skunk smell is gone! With Nali­ni, Zoe’s broth­er Simon cre­ates secret Sun­day morn­ing tobog­gan rides for Zoe as an adven­ture. Zoe learns that peo­ple have lots of ways to get around, and that there are many ways to have adven­tures. She also learns that peo­ple cel­e­brate their beliefs in dif­fer­ent ways, but every­one has some­thing spe­cial about them. Zoe’s moth­er tells her that her name Zoe” means life,” and that life, even with its hard parts, is a gift. Although Zoe is not Jew­ish, this is a worth­while addi­tion to most col­lec­tions because it presents what it is like for a child to live life from a wheel­chair. It focus­es on a child with a dis­abil­i­ty who wants to be like her friends and how she enjoys learn­ing about their diverse mul­ti­cul­tur­al cel­e­bra­tions. Col­or pho­tos of Zoe in her wheel­chair and of her choco­late lab make an invit­ing cov­er. There is a list of ref­er­ences used by the author, as well as some web­sites. Ages 8 – 11.
Anne Dublin is the teacher-librar­i­an at Holy Blos­som Tem­ple in Toron­to, Cana­da and an award-win­ning author of books for chil­dren and young adults. Her lat­est book is June Call­wood: A Life of Action (Sec­ond Sto­ry Press, 2006).

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