Jun 23, 2010

Zoe's Zodiac

by Mary Jo Stephens

I loved this book as a young girl. It was found on a small shelf of paperbacks in my teacher's classroom (I don't remember which grade- fourth maybe?) and I borrowed it to read several times. I think I had my own copy once but it fell to pieces and I've never found another.

It's about a girl who wins a contest at a pet shop. The prize is twelve animals, delivered one a month for a year. Some of the pets are rather ordinary- like the bulldog and guinea pig. Others are a bit more unusual- turtle, duck, caterpillar, etc. I remember in particular a pair of siamese fighting-fish, or bettas. Zoe loves them all in their own unique way, but her family and friends don't always feel the same! Can she convince them to let her keep all the pets, as the household soon begins to feel like a menagerie? More important, can she keep up with the care and attention each deserves? The story is fun, amusing, full of little adventures and unexpected friendships. I know she finally had to let some of the pets go (like the caterpillar-turned-butterfly) and others were found more appropriate homes- but I don't really recall the ending well. I'd like to find this book, so I could read it again... have any of you read it?

Rating: 4/5 ........ 220 pages, 1971


  1. This sounds like a cute story! The cover looks kind of familiar, but the story doesn't sound like anything I've read. Maybe I saw it at the library as a kid but didn't pick it up.

  2. Anonymous4/27/2011

    I remember my local library had three quarters of a copy when I was a kid. And, of course, I only found out that there were pages missing after I'd gotten into it.

  3. Anonymous5/05/2011

    I read this book as a kid, and loved it. As a father of a five-year-old, I've been thinking about "chapter books" which I could read to my daughter, and remembered this one, and Googled it.

    What I remember at the end is Zoe's sister's (ex)-boyfriend rescuing an animal, the sister patting his ankle as he is climbing down the tree or ladder, and the boyfriend falling out and breaking something.

    It may have happened earlier in the book, but I am not sure.

  4. Anonymous5/01/2013

    The boyfriend's name is Hershel. This is my very favorite childhood book. It has fallen apart after countless readings, but I keep it in my dresser drawer with my most precious keepsakes! My daughter and I have a ongoing debate if the last animal is a puppy or a monkey. What do you think?

  5. Anonymous 1- How very irritating. I've read books that ended up having a few pages missing, but not such a large chunk!

    Anonymous 2- I wish I had a copy on hand to give my daughter to read, too. Yes, didn't the boyfriend break his arm?

    Anonymous 3- You've triggered my memory- I recall the hippie boyfriend Hershel very well. He played the harpsichord, right? I think when I was a kid I always assumed the last pet was going to be a monkey, there might have been something in the illustrations that suggested that.

  6. Anonymous8/21/2013

    I rescued this book from a school library that was getting rid of it.I've reread it many times, and it still makes me laugh out loud at key moments! I love how the author captures the quirks and eccentricities of Zoe's family members, with great affection.

    It looks like the book (used) is available through some online vendors. A google search uncovered a lot.

    I've always assumed that the last animal is the monkey from the beginning of the book. Clues: the tail of the last pet is long, brown and curling, dangling from the underside of the cage. Also, the last few words of the book..."Zoe ran to open the door for Mr. Zuccini and the last pet of the year. She found she couldn't remember its name. But it was something literary, she knew."

    The monkey's name is Dante, and we meet him near the beginning, the first time Mr. Zuccini goes to Zoe's house. He's the only animal whose name we know apart from the pets that Zoe has already received. In the book, there is no mention of a puppy with a literary name.

    This is such a lovely book and I'm glad that other people still remember it!


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