The Five Lives of Our Cat Zook
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The Five Lives of Our Cat Zook

3.76 of 5 stars 3.76  ·  rating details  ·  653 ratings  ·  141 reviews
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 ha...more
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published April 1st 2012 by Harry N. Abrams
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Wonder by R.J. PalacioThe One and Only Ivan by Katherine ApplegateThe Fault in Our Stars by John GreenLiar & Spy by Rebecca SteadThe Lions of Little Rock by Kristin Levine
Newbery 2013
49th out of 119 books — 1,083 voters
The One and Only Ivan by Katherine ApplegateThe Five Lives of Our Cat Zook by Joanne RocklinFake Mustache by Tom AnglebergerThomas and the Dragon Queen by Shutta CrumGlory Be by Augusta Scattergood
Sunshine State Books 2013 - 2014 (Grades 3 - 5)
2nd out of 30 books — 4 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,266)
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Molly G
Review for my indie bookstore boss from reading the Advance Reader Copy:

How can one children's book contain so many of The Big Difficult Conversations between adults and kids? And how does it manage it with such hope, humor and delight? From the death of a parent, the prospect of a step-parent, the illness of a pet, a child's responsibilities in a community, how siblings and friends can support and teach each other, the many aspects of honesty, even the joy of reading and a bit of ecological awa...more
Jenna Anderson
Teachers, Parents, and Librarians, You Need This Book

Five Stars

For those of you searching for a well-rounded, thorough, imaginative tale, look no further. The Five Lives of Our Cat Zook is a rare book. Lovers of Junie B. Jones will enjoy this story.

Joanne Rocklin takes a multitude of elements and weaves them beautifully throughout this story. Some details are silly, others small, and a few of them matter most. A flower pot, sweatshirt, catmint, secrets, and loving family members with us and tho...more
Ms. Yingling
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Rachael Stein
Ella and I are searching through the library's Overdrive collection for a new audiobook to listen to. She loves cats, so this one's an obvious choice, but... "I dunno, Ella. It looks like it might have a dead cat in it."

"That's ok. Besides," she reasons, "If it's too sad, we can always listen to some Penderwicks afterwards and cheer ourselves up."

True. We are self-medicating bibliotherapists.


I don't know how I missed this one last year, but I'm almost glad I did. If I had read it last year...more
Wayne S.
How would you feel if your pet became very ill? Ten-year-old Oona Armstrong lives in an Oakland, CA, apartment with her mother Terri, five-year-old brother Fred, and their cat named Zook, which is short for Zucchini. Oona and Fred’s dad Max had died two years before from cancer. Nearby is O’Leary’s Pizza where the kids work to help bring customers in and they get to eat fried zucchini, the only vegetable Fred likes—and thus the cat’s name. Now Zook himself has become sick, so Oona comforts Fred...more
I got this book from someone in administration. I'm not sure, even now, why the ESL administrator sent it to me but it's definitely marked "To Laura Gonzalez".

I'm curious why it was sent to me. I thought maybe the book itself might give me a clue. It doesn't. It's an uncorrected proof so maybe she got it for free and is passing it on. So now I guess I'll have to ask.

In any case, I loved it. There were times when I was really bothered by the adult agendas. I understand that the book is set in Oak...more
Jen Bigheart (I Read Banned Books)
Oona and her brother Fred aren't thrilled about their beloved cat Zook (Zucchini) being kept at the vet after an illness. They decide to take matters into their own hands and break the cat out of kitty jail. In order to convince Fred that Zook will get better, Oona tells some pretty tall tales about the previous lives of Zook. Zook has been a Royal Cat among princes and princesses, and a Ghost Cat living with a wretched old woman. Each story reflects Oona and her brother's Fred lives as they try...more
The Five Lives of Our Cat Zook by Joanne Rocklin and read by Georgette Perna turned out to be an absolute treasure of a listening experience.

Synopsis: 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 lif...more
Katie Fitzgerald
It would be hard for any book to match One Day and One Amazing Morning on Orange Street in my estimation, since it spoke to me on so many levels and is so beautifully crafted, but The Five Lives of Our Cat Zook was not a disappointment by any means. It's a great book for cat lovers, girls with little brothers, any child who has lost a parent, and especially classrooms learning about storytelling. It's hard to name any read-alikes, since the book does take such a unique approach, but I could see...more
Jennifer Leemhuis-mccally
I read this book to my 9 year old son. We both loved it. It was difficult for me to read aloud some of the powerful parts regarding loss. The book is very well-written and I felt like all the characters were developed so well, that they could live next door to us. There is a sense of community in this book with just a few characters. I look forward to reading other books by this author.
Rocklin writes absolutely charming books, and this one is no exception. Oona is a precocious, yet generally authentic child narrator, and her personality dominates the story, but it's a fun personality to spend time with. Most of the adult characters are complex if a little vague, and the plot is a bit serendipitous, though the ending is realistic and satisfying. Oona's world of rebuses, whoppers, and multy-culty urban neighbors is highly enjoyable and easy to fall into, full of love and friends...more
Karen Arendt
This is a beautiful story lover's story. Oona and her brother younger brother, Fred, have a cat named Zook who has been sick. Oona tells Fred how cats have nine lives and Zook is only on his fifth life. Their father died several years ago from a long illness, and now it is just them, Mom and the cat. What Oona has never told anyone is how she found Zook- through less than totally honest means. Oona needs to come to terms with Zook's health, while taking care of Fred (which she claims is one of h...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
What makes cozy novel like this one stay on your mind and in your heart? A narrator with a true and unique voice, rebuses, gardening, pizza, stories within the story, beautiful people that you want in your life, the asking of BIG life questions, and one special cat. Rocklin's writing is invisible in Oona's voice.

Run out and get this book. There are a few moments that I would describe as "hankie required" but don't let that scare you off!

The audio book is awesome!
Once in a while I read a book that I do not realize I like until I am finished with it. The Five Lives of Our Cat Zook was one of those stories. I struggled to just get through with it. I am not overly fond of animal stories, and this one was told by a seemingly naive and silly child named Oona.

Zook is a cat that comes into Oona and Freddy's lives just when they need him. They have lost their father to cancer, and their mom struggles to put the family back together alone. Though their father is...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
5 comforting chocolate chip cookies.

Cover Love: Yes. I love the colors and the cats. I love how big the title is. It is very eye catching.

Why I Wanted to Read This: I adored One Day and One Amazing Morning on Orange Street also by Joanne Rocklin. I was excited to read this one!

Read the rest of my review here on my blog.
It's a sad ending they have to put down Zook (short for Zucchini, since he loves it fried) , due to his liver failure. The vet said, that he's only going to live for a few day, and suffer the pain if they won't put him to sleep. :(

Apparently, he was abused by the previous owner, and found a bb gun pellet in his body with a cut on his right ear. Thank goodness Oona and her brother loves him very much, and adopted him.
A sweet, but not cloying, book about loss and how we cope with it that should be suitable for mid-graders (although I, as an adult, enjoyed it too). The main character is a plucky, humorous, and somewhat unreliable storyteller who learns that her stories can both hurt and help, and also that she isn't always as smart as she thinks she is.
Oona and Freddy love their old cat Zook, but he is pretty ill, so Oona uses stories to help herself come to grips with the that fact. Wonderful characters, a warm family and set of friends--this book would be a great read-aloud in the middle grades classroom.
Oona and her little brother, Fred, are trying to heal after their Father's death. When their old cat, Zook, gets sick they must examine their feelings about death and what happens next. A beautiful book, which I look forward to sharing with children.
Remington Barnett
Oona is a ten years old and when her cat needs to go to the vet she tries to sneak him out which doesn't work out. When her mom meets the Villain and falls in love she tries to bust him for his crimes for hurting their cat. But it ends up that it was his great uncle. That wasn't a Villain at all. In the end her mom and the Villain broke up then got back together the Villain got them a new cat she confessed to the Villains great uncle that she found his cat and an alleyway with a tag on that she...more
Ten-year-old Oona and her little brother Fred live with their mom and their cat, Zook, short for “zucchini’, in Oakland, California. Their dad died two years ago and they are coping with the changes to their family. One of the ways that Oona helps Fred cheer up is by telling stories, like their dad used to tell. Oona’s stories, however, are about their cat Zook and his previous lives, where she also intertwines her insecurities about their family’s future. Zook is a lovable cat who makes them ha...more
On the 2015 Rebecca Caudill Young Readers' Book Award list. Wonderful story for middle grade readers about a young girl named Oona, her younger brother Freddy, and their elderly cat Zook. Zook is ill, and Oona uses the gift of story-telling she received from her deceased father to weave tales of Zook's other lives (because everyone knows cats have nine lives) for Freddy to give him hope. The characters' voices are very distinct, especially when five-year-old Freddy tells his own story about Zook...more
I was tearing up during parts of this...
Maybe suggest for book club?
When you love a pet, it's hurts to see it unwell. Oona and her brother tell stories of we cat's past lives while the cat is in the pet hospital...but sometimes you just have to know when the time is right to let go.

Wow. That was a lot more than I expected.

But before I start the analysis, let me bring you back in time to a real life story (I hear these "round out" reviews):

I've had my fair share of cats. We got our first pet ever: Daisy May, a pure white kitten. Honestly, I don't even remember ge...more
Oona and Fred have a cat named Zook. Zook is a sick kitty who has to get fluids to help his kidney's function. Oona is teaching Fred to read using rebuses and stories about the past lives of Zook. She is upset that her mom is dating Dylan (the villain) who she thinks is the past owner of Zook. There are misunderstandings, life lessons and big and little whoppers.

I am not sure if I would have felt the same way about this book if I had read it instead of listening to it. But since I listened to i...more
What a sweet little book! I was completely enchanted by this story and the characters within it. As someone who just recently got a cat from the humane society, I felt a little connection to Zook and cared about him from the start. As for Oona, the main character, I will have to say it took me a bit to warm up to her. I’ll be honest, sometimes characters that are as precocious as she is tend to annoy me. But what hooked me in with her was how much she cared for her little brother! Her love for h...more
My Review: If you are a cat lover you would want to read Five Lives of Our Cat Zook. This touching story tell about a 10 years old girl who watched her father die of cancer and is still grieving for him, her beloved cat is now sick and the only thing she can do is tell stories to Fred to keep him happy.

Oona and her brother Fred found Zook the cat in an alley while they were eating lunch from O’Leary’s. They took the cat home and their mother agreed that they can keep him. Zook left ill and they...more
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I was born in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, the land of four distinct seasons. The winters are so long!

Wintry days and nights inspired me to read many, many books, the most important thing a writer can do. Of course other seasons inspired me, too! And as soon as I learned to hold a pencil I began writing poems, stories, and diaries.

I have always owned cats (or they have owned me, a cliché, but true!)...more
More about Joanne Rocklin...
One Day and One Amazing Morning on Orange Street For Your Eyes Only! This Book Is Haunted Strudel Stories One Hungry Cat

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“You get a happy feeling helping someone read. You feel sort of like a wizard.” 3 likes
“Why not"! That is SO wise. So many things would be possible in this world if you thought "Why not?" all day long.” 3 likes
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