Wednesday, August 31, 2011


by Zizou Corder
August 2011
"Zizou is a creature of mystery who likes accordion music, dancing in chandeliers and telling stories. She was born in a Hungarian nightclub, to a Circus Family, and now sails the world in a blue canoe hoping that one day she will find an orchestra up a tree."
Actually, Zizou Corder "is Louisa Young and Isabel Adomahko Young, whose names are too long to fit on the front of a book."  In the posts on Zizou's blog, Zizou is referred to as a male. His(her?) name comes from a pet lizard.

I had been wanting to read this book for a while. The cover caught my attention. I always assumed it took place in Africa. I had no idea it was a somewhat of a fantasy adventure set in London, Paris and Venice in the near future and featured a floating circus.  But these things made me like the story even more than I had thought I would.

11 year old Charlie comes home from school one day to find that his scientist parents, "Magdalen Start, PHD, MD, PQRST, LPO, TP" and "Aneba Ashanti, Doctor of Endoterica and Tropical Sciences at the University of Accra in Ghana, (currently on sabbatical at London University) " have been kidnapped. Whatever they had been working on in their secret laboratory was obviously of interest to a person or persons unknown.  Luckily, Charlie can talk to cats. The strays that live at the nearby ruins tell him what has happened, but not much else.  He manages to escape from the "fancy slimy git" named Rafi who has tried to nab him as well, and goes off in search of more clues as to his parents' whereabouts.  

Charlie ends up on a floating circus called "Thibaudet's Royal Floating Circus and Equestrian Philharmonic Academy." This is where he meets a pride of performing lions and where he aquires the nickname Lionboy.  

Charlie has no idea why his parents have been kidnapped. They never told him about their latest research project. The cats he encounters along the way know something, but they aren't very forthcoming with information.  Charlie has to piece together various clues which lead him closer to his parent's location and their secret project.

The book doesn't really end, but leaves us with the words "to be continued."  This is a trilogy. Book two is Lionboy: the Chase. The conclusion is Lionboy: the Truth."

I love that the book started as a series of bedtime stories told by Louisa to her daughter Isabel. According to an interview in Audiofile magazine, "The collaboration process gives Louisa constant access to another imagination. They discuss escape routes for lions or names for acrobats. Louisa types up the scenes, Isabel reads them, and they revise together."

I listened to the audiobook. Actually, what made me finally pick this book up to read (listen to) was the narrator - the fabulous Simon Jones, whose voice and reading I fell in love with while listening to him narrate the Bartimeus Trilogy.  Interestingly, Jones does not narrate the British audiobook. His is the American edition.  From the Audiofile interview:  
"Young Isabel likes to listen to audiobooks; whereas, Louisa likes to “read books for the silence.” They listen to audiobooks together in the car, though, and it was there that they first heard narrator Anton Lesser reading Philip Pullman’s RUBY IN THE SMOKE. Anton Lesser reads the UK audiobook production of LIONBOY at their request, and Simon Jones narrates the American audiobook. After eight years of telling each other stories from LIONBOY, it’s surprising to hear it read by someone else. When Louisa listened to Jones’s version, she found herself wondering what was going to happen next."
That last line - "...she found herself wondering what was going to happen next" - that's because Simon Jones is so good you find yourself getting completely absorbed in the story.
One sort of odd thing about this audiobook is the music. At various times throughout the book music plays behind the narration. Sometimes it makes sense, as in the calliope music of the circus boat. Other times, the music seems added randomly.  When I picked up the book itself to look at the spelling of a couple of characters' names, I saw that music is actually printed in the book.   I'm not quite sure why it's so, but apparently it was important to the authors to include it. In fact, you can buy a book of the piano music with a CD - Music from Zizou Corder's Lion Boy by Robert Lockhart.

Besides realizing the music was in the printed book, I found that there are some neat illustrations, including a map on each endpaper as well as a diagram of the circus boat.

Fortunately, the added pleasure of the illustrations will get me through the second book because,  unfortunately, the library doesn't own the audiobook of Lionboy: the Chase.  I'll have to read it in order to get to the third book, narrated by the fabulous Simon Jones.

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