Tuesday 24 September 2019

"Zanzibar" by Catharina Valckx (Gecko Press)

There's a certain book format that we're completely head over heels in love with, but don't really see enough of in the UK book market.

It's a format that seems very much prevalent on the continent and in other international regions - and though a few publishers have embraced the 'picture-heavy-early-chapter-reader' style (I think I need to think of a snappier way to describe it) it really hasn't caught on. Why is that?

By the by, "Zanzibar" by Catharina Valckx is very much a book in this beloved format - the simple story of a simple crow who longs, nay YEARNS to be special.

Sure, it's a familiar theme - but when Achille LeBlab, special correspondent for a local newspaper knocks at Zanzibar's door, he's looking for someone exceptional. Could that be Zanzibar?

All evidence seems to suggest that Zanzibar is just an ordinary black-feathered crow with no special superpowers or abilities. But Zanzibar does have something - a plan, and enough self-belief to give him the get-up-and-go to prove that lizard reporter wrong.

So that night Zanzibar hatches a plan - and that plan involves a Camel! But how can a humble crow - and a newly found Camel friend do anything exceptional?

The story unfolds beautifully, accompanied by illustrations with every page turn - and despite the chapter format, the word count is still kept pretty low making this a great little story for kids who can breeze through picture books but haven't quite got to the point where they're confident enough to tackle early chapter books (with minimal illustrations).

Zanzibar's tale is full of hope and a great moral - that we are all exceptional in different ways, and sometimes the act of proving how exceptional we are is the very thing that makes people sit up and take notice.

Brilliant stuff, and we'll say again, we love this particular book format and we'd love a lot more UK debut authors to have their "longer than 500 word" stories considered for books like this (hint hint massive hint).

Sum this book up a sentence: A fantastic moral tale about our perception of what makes us amazing and exceptional versus the popular view of what it really takes.

"Zanzibar" by Catharina Valckx is out now, published by Gecko Press (kindly supplied for review).