About the Book
After a terrifically hard and terribly disappointing day before the Fourth of July, Peanut Johnson, wandering aimlessly down Main Street, stumbles upon The Capital Z, a This and That Shop. Stepping inside, he meets Mr. Aloysious Zip, the kind and eccentric shopkeeper, who introduces Peanut to a most wondrous place. There are toys and trinkets, model cars and miniature wagon trains, even memorabilia from days gone by—“reminders,” says Mr. Zip with an air of mystery.
Discovering “everything from A to Z” inside The Capital Z, Peanut also finds history unfolding before his very eyes. Touching a Kentucky rifle hanging on the shop wall, he is transported to the wilderness where he sees his Great-Great-Great-Great Uncle Milkweed Johnson fighting in Andrew Jackson’s regiment during the War of 1812. George Washington’s sword brings Peanut onto the battlefield where the General, on horseback, dodges bullet after bullet. And while staring at a beautiful stained-glass window depicting the building of the Tower of Babel, Peanut finds himself in a crowd of angry and confused spectators, all speaking a different language!
But Peanut’s visit to The Capital Z turns out to be much more than a journey through history. As he peers into the past with his Uncle Milkweed and some of America’s greatest leaders, he finds courage and hope to face his own mistakes, taking his first steps from boyhood to those of a young man.
The Capital Z holds many memorable historic items--each with a story: a Kentucky rife that told of Milkweed Johnson's bravery in returning to his former plantation, a sword replica that told of George Washington's battles, and a room with books and stained glass windows. As Peanut listens to tales of history, he realizes how he can be brave in the problem he created two days before.
The premise of this story is clever: create a shop where the shopkeeper can teach history in a creative way. The writing style is great for children--easy going and funny. The historical tid-bits seem well-researched, with foot notes.
There are some strange things that, in order to give my honest book review, I feel necessary to mention.
"People tell me that when they're in this shop, they feel like they see or hear unusual things." As Mr. Zip tells stories, Peanut "sees" what is happening. Kind of like a time-travel, yet he's still in the shop for most of them--and it's never really explained. Mr. Zip was in all of the pictures even from 100 years ago and "It seemed to Peanut that Mr. Zip had a firsthand knowledge, almost as if he had actually been there! 'No way.' Dismissing the thought, Peanut caught up to what Mr. Zip was saying."
I'll just mention that Peanut had an infatuation with a girl which, while it was a little silly to a grown-up, just does not seem needed for a children's book.
Spiritual (this is the main thing that pulled my star rating down):
The stained glass reminders went straight from the Garden of Eden to Noah's flood--no mention of HOW sin came into the world. The cross was mentioned, and how God has a plan, and being a Christian--but no mention of Jesus Christ (ever). In all of this, it was all paraphrased Bible stories with opinions inserted that just didn't QUITE sound Scriptural. There was more of a "good morals" slant and how Peanut should do the right thing because that was what the men before him did.
When I started this, I honestly thought it might be a good family read-aloud book. The introduction of all of the Johnsons' names was just hilarious. But given the negatives, I'm just not comfortable with recommending this book unless you like fantasy (but even then, the spiritual slips just have me concerned).
*I received this book from BookCrash in exchange for my honest review*
About the Author
Kimberly Bryant-Palmer never dreamed of becoming a writer, but always loved reading--her favorite authors being James Michener, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Harper Lee. Kimberly received her Bachelor of Arts degree in both music and biology from Mary Washington College (now The University of Mary Washington). While in graduate school, studying music theory, she worked a short time in cancer research before going on to write and record a CD, Just Enough. But it was when she met an artist named Jerry Palmer, and wrote the introduction for a book idea he had carried in his head for 25 years, that she found what she truly loved to do.
Mr. Zip and The Capital Z, a story of restoration and hope, tells of a young, dark-skinned American boy, Peanut Johnson, who has just endured "a terrifically hard and terribly disappointing day." In this tale, Kimberly explores matters of the heart while taking her readers on a magical journey through history.
As she wrote, Jerry sketched the characters, and together, they brought the eccentric Mr. Zip, the tenderhearted Peanut, and his hilarious, lovable family to life.
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