In this warmhearted middle-grade novel, Oona and her brother, Fred, love their cat Zook (short for Zucchini), but Zook is sick. As they conspire to break him out of the vet’s office, convinced he can only get better at home with them, Oona tells Fred the story of Zook’s previous lives, ranging in style from fairy tale to grand epic to slice of life. Each of Zook’s lives has echoes in Oona’s own family life, which is going through a transition she’s not yet ready to face. Her father died two years ago, and her mother has started a relationship with a man named Dylanùwhom Oona secretly calls ôthe villain.ö The truth about Dylan, and about Zook’s medical condition, drives the drama in this loving family story.
The Five Lives of our Cat Zook centers around themes of loss and change. What does Zook symbolize for Oona and her family? What connection does Zook have with the death of Oona’s father?
The Five Lives of our Cat Zook is chock full of a variety of characters ranging from senior citizens to children from several different religious and cultural backgrounds. With which character did you most identify? Why?
Do books—and life—end with one grand happy ending, or are there a series of “happy-ending times” as Oona’s theory suggests? Did the story end the way you expected? What was your emotional response to the conclusion of The Five Lives of our Cat Zook?
What part/character/event are you most excited/proud about In The Five Lives of Our Cat Zook?
“I am excited about the stories Oona and Fred tell during the course of the novel. My book is mainly about storytelling, and how important that is for everyone—the teller and the reader or listener. Stories help us make sense of this crazy world we live in. Stories help us connect with those around us.”
The only imperfection in this novel is that it ends. Fortunately, an appendix provides us with Oona’s eight-step theory for storymaking, including, “A story doesn’t have to be true, but it does have to be real.”