Zoom Upstream

by Vicky on July 11, 2010

At this week’s Page Presents class, I finally got to try out my experiment of reading the book, Zoom Away, by Tim Wynne-Jones and illustrated by Eric Beddows, while projecting large images from the book.

I borrowed a laptop and computer from a neighboring branch, and the experiment was a striking success!  The kids got caught up in the story and the images as I read the book with help from my puppet Zoom, who commented on the events and added lots of exciting details.

Zoom Upstream is the third book in the Zoom Trilogy, and Zoom has not yet gotten to meet his seafaring Uncle Roy, skipper of the Catship.  Zoom is pruning roses with Maria in her garden one autumn day when the phone rings.  When Maria doesn’t return, Zoom goes inside to investigate and finds a note from Maria saying that Uncle Roy had called and there was no time to lose. 

Zoom follows her muddy footprints through the house to a tall bookcase where light is shining through the space where a book has been removed.  When he climbs up to it, he discovers a staircase made of books that spirals down to a levee next to a dark river.

Making a raft from a packing case, Zoom has an adventurous trip down the river and fetches up at an ancient Egyptian tomb where he rejoins Maria.  As drums boom and echo through the dark corridors of the tomb (aided by Mr. Matt), they have close encounters with mummies and living cats in hats conducting mysterious ceremonies with hissing chants (the kids chanted along with the cats).  Then Zoom and Maria discover a trail of Uncle Roy’s buttons and find themselves in a hall lined with monumental statues of “towering, glowering cats, whose eyes [follow] them.”

Although it has its scary moments, the story ends happily when they emerge from the tomb onto a pier where a rowboat awaits them.  They see the Catship at anchor under a crescent moon.  As they row out to the clipper, they can hear a concertina and someone singing.

Zoom can’t speak for smiling when he finally meets his Uncle Roy, a large yellow tomcat in a captain’s hat.  His happiness is complete when Roy invites him to join a voyage of discovery to find the source of the Nile.

Then they all sail off together into their next adventure.

Eric Beddows’ richly detailed black and white illustrations perfectly complement the text.  The three books of the Zoom Trilogy are classics in the best tradition of children’s literature.

I was worried that the story might be too long for my preschool audience, but they were completely under its spell.  Near the end of the story, when Zoom and Maria are rowing out to the Catship, I began playing the sea chantey “Homeward Bound,” sung by Stuart M. Frank (from the Smithsonian Folkways compilation, Classic Maritime Music).

It was the perfect ending to the story and everyone began dancing along with the music.

Then we made gorgeous “towering, glowering” cat masks.

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