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Zoe in Wonderland

by Brenda Woods

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1187177,323 (4)1
"Introverted, daydream-prone Zoe is afraid her real life will never be as exciting as her imaginary one"--

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From Kirkus Reviews, " "Zoe G. Reindeer hates her last name and her big feet and anything else that makes her "just Zoe." "

The 11-year-old black girl enjoys living next to her father's Pasadena nursery, Doc Reindeer's Exotic Plant Wonderland. Among the plants she can be safe from her queen-bee older sister, Jade, and annoying genius younger brother, Harper. Inside the Wonderland, Zoe feels at peace. Outside the Wonderland, she is “just Zoe.” Although she loves hanging out with her best friend, budding filmmaker Quincy Hill, Zoe struggles to connect with others. No one seems to appreciate her for who she is. Even her next-door neighbor Mrs. Warner calls her “little Miss Jade.” All day long she daydreams of Imaginary Zoe, the cool teenage Zoe with a perfect life and overflowing confidence. When a kind visitor stops by the Wonderland, Zoe begins to see that there's more to her than "just Zoe." Woods develops a realistic adolescent struggle with self-acceptance. One betrayal, one relentlessly mean older sister, one moment of rejection weigh heavily on Zoe. Conversely, one kind word, a few minutes of undivided attention, helps disrupt her negative self-image. Young readers will easily identify with Zoe's unbridled curiosity and wishes for the future, and the ending satisfies and avoids being hokey or heavy-handed.

This touching tale about finding strength in uniqueness is a well-crafted read from start to finish."

  CDJLibrary | Nov 29, 2020 |
  lcslibrarian | Aug 13, 2020 |
Zoe is an imaginative girl who has the great fortune to live right beside her father's plant nursery, Doc Reindeer's Exotic Plant Wonderland. The eleven-year-old is the middle child in her family, and considers herself to be too shy and dull. That's why she created Imaginary Zoe, a daring and stylish version of herself. Zoe likes to imagine this different self when she is feeling insecure next to her too-perfect older sister and her too-smart younger brother, or when she wishes she had been bolder in her actions. Imaginary Zoe snubs her sister, outsmarts her brother, and puts bullies in their place, but Just Zoe only imagines those things happening. When some large real-world concerns creep into her life - her best friend has to move to a new city to live with his dad because his mom has cancer, her dad's bill problems pose the looming threat of having to sell the nursery, mean girls at school are bullying her, and she can't figure out if the new boy wants to be her friend or is just teasing - she tries to work through the issues, both as Imaginary Zoe and Just Zoe. As she does, Zoe learns that her normal self can be bold and have adventures, in her real life as well as in her imagination.

Zoe is an appealing character, and her coming-of-age story is a sweet tale about friendships old and new, family relationships, and the power of the imagination. I could definitely relate to Zoe, being an imaginative introvert myself, and found myself rooting for her through all of her challenges and victories. The book does a great job developing her personality and those of many of the side characters, and it makes the reader care about what happens to the Reindeer family. It's just a slice of a growing up story, actually, as it doesn't follow her from childhood to adulthood. Instead, it focuses on a small period in her life that represents a time of big changes for her and her family, and sets the stage for her adolescence and growth ahead. This spotlight effect is a great choice, especially for younger readers, and creates a compelling realistic fiction story that I think children and adults can enjoy. ( )
  nmhale | Sep 1, 2019 |
Zoe Reindeer lives with her younger brother, older sister, and parents in a home in California behind her father's exotic plant store, Doc Reindeer's Exotic Plant Wonderland. She loves the Wonderland, and her one and only friend Quincy, and daydreaming.
"Zoe in Wonderland" isn't a bad book... it's just not a good one either. Things happen, a story line moves along. But in the end Zoe doesn't seem to have changed much or learned any big lessons about life or growing up. She's the same Zoe she was at the beginning. None of the characters were particularly well developed except for Zoe.
A further drawback is that the story is punctuated, almost randomly, by little paragraphs in italics telling what Zoe is imagining. These don't advance the story in any way - they are more of a distraction that a contribution to the book. While some of them ring true as things a 12-year-old girl might daydream about, some really don't. At one point she is imagining that she is the famous inventor of a cell phone app that makes people's problems go away. In another she imagines that she has the power to create extra moons in the sky. What?
I liked Zoe, I just wish the book had more of a point to the story. A message. ( )
  fingerpost | Jun 2, 2019 |
Great story about a shy and slightly awkward girl named Zoe Reindeer with a great imagination but she feels lost as the middle child in her family and has a lot of trouble making friends. Throughout the course of the story, Zoe finds herself and her voice and her story will want to make you laugh, cry, and cheer for Ms. Zoe Reindeer. ( )
  DMPrice | Aug 12, 2018 |
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