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Book Reviews, Fantasy/Science Fiction, Lovelace Award Nominee, Middle Grade Readers, Read-Aloud Suggestions, Teacher & Parent Recommendations

THE SECRET OF ZOOM by Lynne Jonell

By Lynne JonellI have been looking forward to reading The Secret of Zoom, having read Ms. Jonell’s earlier book Emmy and the Incredible Shrinking Rat (a GEM for 3rd & 4th graders as a read-aloud or independent read).  I am just as excited about Zoom as I was about Emmy!

Christina Adnoid is ten years old and lives with her father, the head scientist at Loompski Laboratories. She knows her mother, also a scientist, was blown up in a Laboratory accident when Christina was just three years old.  She has never been allowed beyond the gates of their property, and is only allowed outside for an hour each day.

Using her telescope Christina has seen other children playing in the schoolyard.  She has seen children collecting garbage in the town of Dorf.  When she asks her father about the children collecting garbage she is told that they are orphans and she must not speak about them and if she actually met one she must never, ever actually speak to him.  Her father tells her this is to keep her safe.  Of course, this only confuses and frustrates a very lonely Christina.

Discovering a long-forgotten tunnel from the house which leads outside beyond the property gates, Christina fools her Nanny and sneaks out.  When she meets an orphan named Taft, she does speak to him and begins an adventure she could never have imagined.  Loompski Labs is a far more sinister place than anyone has realized.

As Christina travels through dark caves, wallows in disgusting piles of garbage and discovers a treasure beyond her wildest dreams she also comes face to face with her own fear.  She begins to realize the challenges of making choices outside the gates of her home.  An new, remarkable source of energy, the magic of music, the power of thought, children forced into a kind of slavery, kid-sized airplanes, mystery, cruelty, compassion and ingenuity wrap themselves around an extremely well-plotted narrative.

Christina is a character with whom readers will quickly identify.  The magical qualities of the setting and the story are completely believeable.  I know I felt as if the Starkian Mountains might really exist.  Fraught with moments of danger and suspense, this book is a joyous and triumphant read from one of my favorite Minnesota authors–especially for readers ages 7-11.

This would be a fantastic read-aloud in a classroom or for bedtime.  I’m hoping to try it out as such myself!

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