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A couple of weeks ago I went to the SCBWI conference, where Joanne Rocklin was one of the co-authors giving the introductory speech. Her middle grade book, “The Five Lives of Our Cat Zook,” sounded adorable, and I enjoyed her speech, so I decided to pick it up.

Here’s the premise: Ten-year-old Oona and her five-year-old brother Freddy have a wonderful cat named Zook (short for zucchini), but he’s sick. As other things in their lives change around them, both children take comfort in Oona’s gift for storytelling, which she uses to explain that Zook is only on his fifth life, and of course everyone knows cats get nine lives. Throughout the book, Oona weaves in tales about Zook’s former lives, along with her theories on lying, friendship, and even world peace.

Honestly, I usually stay away from “animal” books. You know, books centered around the pet of a family. Show me an animal book and I’ll show you a book with a tearjerker ending about 90% of the time…and I did shed a few tears at the end of this book, but the whole thing was so delightful, and Oona’s voice felt so authentic that it was totally worth it.

We're going running?

We’re going running?

It also did a great job of showing how a pet can help enrich your lives, bringing people together and helping them move on. While reading, I had been debating about going to jiu-jitsu practice or taking my dog out for a run, but when I turned the last page of this book, my dog won out. 🙂

Oh, and on a related note, Joanne Rocklin has s blog chronicling 180 ways to counter writer’s block. Last I checked she was up to tip #70, so check it out.

How about you? Any good animal books out there you’d recommend? And do you enjoy tearjerker endings, or do you usually try and avoid them?