The Secret of Old Zeb

Carmen Agra Deedy, Author, Michael P. White, Illustrator Peachtree Publishers $16.95 (40p) ISBN 978-1-56145-115-9
Things are not what they seem in this tale within a tale, a new collaboration from the creators of The Library Dragon. When bored Lila asks her old Uncle Walter when her parents will return, he relates the story of when his own parents sent him to Boston for the summer while they pursued their dream of climbing Kilimanjaro. While languishing at his great-aunt's home he meets Old Zeb, who makes ships in bottles but lets Walter in on his true dream, his ""G.S.P."" (Great Secret Project)--an enormous ship he's building in his cellar. Although the text is occasionally weighed down when Zeb shares platitudes such as ""Some dreams are too big to be kept in bottles"" or ""We all have a compass inside.... It's the part of us that points to what's right and sure and true,"" there are flashes of humor in Deedy's likable tale. In White's highly stylized paintings, witty details (an omnipresent one-eyed parrot; a ship's figurehead in the image of Walter's feisty great aunt) and clever visual foreshadowing (steam from a tea cup forms a ship sailing skyward on the endpapers) abound. The surprises here (like Old Zeb's ship bound for the stars and Walter's secret rocket) may just prompt children to ask their elders to reveal their own secret dreams. Ages 6-10. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 09/01/1997
Release date: 09/01/1997
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