“'There's cold chicken inside it,' replied the Rat briefly; 'coldtonguecoldhamcoldbeefpickledgherkinssaladfrench

'O stop, stop,' cried the Mole in ecstacies: 'This is too much!'”
-- from
The Wind in the Willows

Friday, August 6, 2010

Buddy Zooka: In the French Quarter and Beyond • Fiction

Buddy Zooka: In the French Quarter And Beyond
Just out!  June 2010  A Broken Levee Books title from Chin Music Press Ages 11 and up
"Dedicated to Mother Earth and all her keepers," Buddy’s story is both zany and contemplative, and the lessons learned are profound ones that resonate in New Orleans like nowhere else.
Story: Buddy Zooka brings the New Orleans French Quarter to life like no one since Ignatius Reilly.  Buddy is a happy-go-lucky young musician. But one day he goes fishing and catches an alligator, Mardi Gator, who quickly decides to take up residence in Buddy’s giant top hat. Thrown off his usual carefree routine, Buddy loses his smile and begins to take a closer look at his world, learning about humanity’s often-destructive effects on the environment. Buddy’s journey then turns inwards, as a colorful cast of characters show him how the secret to saving both his community and the planet resides within each of us.
Adding to the incredible storytelling, the book itself is beautifully designed to resemble a Ragtime-era paperback, complete with fake advertisements and French flaps. From the moment you pick it up, you know that you're in for something special. 
Story behind the story:  Author Tracey Tangerine is a singer, visual artist, author, and performer who has spent much of her time teaching in schools on the west bank of the Mississippi River. Tracey left New Orleans with her family the day before the levees broke on August 29, 2005, and settled briefly in Hillsboro, OR, where she began to write Buddy Zooka. She continued to write throughout her visit to Seattle, WA, relocation to Lafayette, LA, and upon her return to the Crescent City.  Tracey now teaches at Edna Karr High School in the Algiers Point neighborhood of New Orleans.

This September, the entire student body at Edna Karr High School will read Buddy Zooka together, and stage a musical based on the novel.

Tracey is available for readings and events in the New Orleans and Gulf Coast area.

Bookslut recently reviewed Buddy Zookabecause mind-blowing originality is such a precious commodity in the YA world in particular that it must be celebrated whenever a reviewer comes across it.” Reviewer Colleen Mondor continues, “this book is a wake-up call about the environment. But it never preaches or becomes didactic, and Tangerine clearly is more determined to paint an accurate picture of her home city’s quirkiness than anything else… Listed as “a novel for all ages,” it’s hard to know just exactly who is the best audience for Buddy Zooka, as it’s more about the reader then their age. You have to like your stories offbeat, and your characters larger than life, but even with those caveats, this is a very charming novel with an element of sweetness tempered by humor and occasional silliness (the hot sauce incident) that makes it broadly appealing. The design is also impressive -- Chin Music has gone out its way to give the book a vintage feel with everything from the cover illustration to end papers to closing “advertisements.” To say that Buddy Zooka will stand out on the shelves is an understatement, and further proof of just what an indie press has to offer that the big publishers (so fond of their black and purple photo illustrated covers) have yet to embrace.”

FYI: all the review copies for this title have been sent; please check back on the "comments" link to read what your colleagues have to say.


loonyhiker said...

I would give this book 5 out of 5. I liked the cover (even though I know you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover!) and I loved the stories in the book. I could see this book being read aloud to children. The main character is a lot of fun and full of adventures. Even the setting is a great place full of adventure and the author describes the place so well that the reader can picture everything happening in the story. I like that the chapters are short enough to keep the reader’s interest. I could see this being a great lead in to talking about geography, social skills, as well as a great vocabulary lesson. The chapters are short enough to stand alone as a separate story and would not be overwhelming for many students. I would also incorporate art with the stories and allow the student’s imagination to run wild. I would definitely recommend this for teachers to use in the classroom.

dmuldawer said...

Wacky and offbeat, Buddy Zooka is sure to appeal to some but this is not a book that would appeal to most.

First off, the book is quite hard to follow. Characters are introduced rapidly and disappear just as rapidly. They often don't stay around for more than a minute or two and so there is no chance to form a relationship with the characters or gain a deeper understanding of them.

Second, the names are all odd. Using one or two unusual names would give them emphasis, but in a town where animals seem to talk as freely as people (and where the people and animals aren't easily distinguishable), it's almost like entering another dimension where nothing makes sense.

Third, the slang Buddy uses (mostly variants of his last name) is distracting and adds nothing to the plot.

Fourth, I felt like I was being hit over the head with the environmental messages. Through Buddy, the author spells out her own thoughts about the environment. This is done in a drastically different style than Buddy's own natural thought process and has the feel of authorial intrusion.

What I liked about the book were the short segments of Native American stories, especially the one about Buffalo Boy. These sections were clear and easy to read.

This book will find a heart connection with some but I fear that it is too obtuse to appeal to middle schoolers.

Picnic Basket Rating: 2

M. Battista said...

I completely agree with the post above by dmuldawer. Buddy Zooka is a quirky read that's for sure, but it's a little too out there for this reader. I really had enough by the time I got to the chakra talk. I felt the inspirational phrases were great, but completely out of place. I didn't care for the author being a character and the environmental message was too heavy handed.

Picnic Rating: 2

M. Battista
Denair Elementary School Library
Denair, CA

EShay said...

I have a soft spot for New Orleans, which helped me get through this book.
I also found the layout of the book to be quite fun and entertaining. The softcover that functions as a hardcover and the extra pages made the book look different.
It was difficult to get through at first. Once I got into it, the cutesy talk was rather grating. When I mentioned the title and showed the cover to my high school students, they simply laughed and dismissed it.
I appreciated the cultural references and the message. However, I did not find it artfully done. The book kept hitting the message home which many children (and adults) find insulting.
I give it a 3 as this is the 5th anniversary of Katrina and I think everyone should know more about New Orleans.

Anonymous said...

At first I had a hard time getting into this book because of all the characters that were introduced in the first few chapters, but once I got into the book I really enjoyed it. I always read a book looking for that certain student who would enjoy it, and I know that my high creative reader will get into this book.
I thought that the Zookaisms were the best. Buddy always had a zooka word to describe his feelings. I also felt that there were many relatable characters. We all have that one person who drives us nuts. We have those good friends who are there to help us when we have lost our smile. And who would not want an alligator living in their hat.
This is a great book to use for teaching visualization and characterization.
This is a 4 in my basket.

Heather Hill said...

I think this is one of those books that I might have to read again. It is so offbeat and different that I just didn't get into it - as much as I tried.

But, as others have said, there is a book for everyone and I'm sure this will appeal to someone...maybe someone with a kindred love of New Orleans. For me, this was a 2 for the first read. Maybe it will grow on me.

Heather Hill, Reading Specialist
Enterprise Elementary
Woodbridge, VA

Anonymous said...

This is one of the most creative, fun books ever written with a New Orleans spirit! Three cheers for Tracey Tangerine!