cover image Zink


Cherie Bennett / Author Delacorte Press Books for Young Reader

Adapted from a play Bennett (University Hospital, reviewed below) wrote for young audiences, this uneasy mix of fantasy and realism focuses on a sixth-grader's fatal bout with leukemia. At first there are two separate threads, and the narrative jumps jarringly between them. On the grassy plains of East Africa, a herd of zebras listen to their leader tell stories of a legendary spotted zebra called Zink. Meanwhile, self-conscious Becky Zaslow is diagnosed with leukemia. The narratives merge when representatives of the zebra brood pass into the human world to visit Becky in the hospital (where only she can see and hear them). While still a patient, she is in turn twice transported to their homeland. There, though her pain disappears, she faces such challenges as escaping from a band of marauding lions and swimming across a raging river with--literally--a monkey on her back. The hospital scenes stand out for their authenticity, and Becky's bravery in facing cancer becomes all the more poignant as a result of Bennett's candor in setting forth the girl's ordeals. But the flights of fancy come across as a bizarre contrast, not of a piece with Becky's experience. Ages 8-12. (Oct.)