Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The Secret of Old Zeb

The Secret of Old Zeb

Carmen Agra Deedy
Illustrator:  Michael P. White 
Picture Book
For ages 7 to 10
Peachtree, 1997   ISBN: 978-1561451159

When Walter goes to spend the summer with his Great Aunt Hortensia he expects the visit to be as dull as ditchwater. And, unfortunately, Walter is right. He spends hours playing canasta with his great aunt and is terribly bored. Then Walter sees an interesting looking old man coming to the house next door. Who is the odd looking fellow? Could he be a smuggler or a pirate?

In fact the old man is called Old Zeb, an old sailor who now spends his days putting miniature ships into bottles. As the boy and the old man become friends, Walter cannot help wondering about all the big boxes and cases that keep arriving at Old Zeb?s house. Is Old Zeb really is some kind of smuggler after all?

Then Old Zeb shares a precious secret with Walter; in Old Zeb?s basement he is building a full size ship, a beautiful ship made of wood with three masts and one day, when he completes the ship, the old man plans to sail off in it.

Soon Walter is helping the old man with his wonderful secret. He also discovers that Aunt Hortensia is not all she seems. Walter begins to wonder if he, like Old Zeb, Aunt Hortensia, and his own parents, has a dream buried inside him somewhere, a dream to work towards and to reach for.

This wonderful picture book with its interesting artwork, explores how all sorts of people have dreams and how people can sometimes be a lot more interesting than one imagined. We are encouraged to find our own mountain to climb, to build our own ship, or to create our own rocket ship to take us to the stars. With a sprinkling of magic this is a unique story which will tickle the imagination.