Review: Have You Ever Zeen a Ziz?

Have You Ever Zeen a Ziz? by Linda Elovitz Marshall, illustrated by Kyle Reed

Category: Picture Books
Reviewer:  Freidele Galya Soban Biniashvili

Reminiscent of the style of a Dr. Seuss story, Have You Ever Zeen a Ziz? is about the ziz, a mythological big bird that is referred to in ancient Jewish writings.

Alongside Reed’s whimsical and colorful artwork that gives the book a fantasy world feel, the reader learns how a ziz looks and behaves, during the day and at night. Written in rhyming verse, the vocabulary is both simple (hat / cat / bat) and more advanced (prehistoric / absurd / creation / lofty). There are also several Seussian words in the book; in this story, where what would be the real word, is replaced by a made-up rhyming word that begins with the letter ‘z’ (zis instead of this, zat instead of that, zings instead of sings, zee instead of see). This use of the ‘z’ sound will appeal to younger children, especially when the book is read aloud. Additionally, some of the words are written in bigger fonts and some in all capital letters, while one word is made to s-t-r-e-e-e-tch out, all visual techniques which contribute to the playfulness of the story. The word shluffy is also used in the verses describing how a ziz sleeps, so even non-Yiddish speaking readers will understand its meaning.

Little factual information is known about the ziz, but the Author’s Note at the end of the book describes what is known about the ziz, based on Elovitz Marshall’s research. That the ziz has its origins in Jewish tradition, is also explained in the Author’s Note, which references the Psalms in which the ziz appears and gives more information about the ziz; the name of one of the books that the author used to do her research is provided as well. That being said, Have You Ever Zeen a Ziz? is about a Jewish topic per se, but this story about a big bird can appeal to children of all backgrounds. Dr. Seuss introduced children to the Goo-Goose bird. Now children can also read about the Ziz.

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Reviewer Freidele Galya Soban Biniashvili is the author of several books for children including I LOVE MATZAH, THERE’S A REASON WHY!, and GOLDIE AND THE GUESTS. She resides in Toronto, Canada with her husband, a children’s book illustrator, and their young, energetic team of future writers and illustrators. (Bio illustration courtesy of Michael Biniashvili.)