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The Midnight Diary of Zoya Blume    by Laura Shaine Cunningham order for
Midnight Diary of Zoya Blume
by Laura Shaine Cunningham
Order:  USA  Can
Laura Geringer, 2005 (2005)

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* * *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

Twelve-year old Zoya Blume was adopted when she was four years old from an orphanage in St. Petersburg, Russia. Zoya and her mom Mimi now live in Gramma's apartment at Roxy Mansion. Zoya has always been leery of Gramma's old chair. It's shaped like a monster with winged arms (like dragon faces with bare teeth) and clawed feet. Actually, Zoya was scared of 'the entire building', except for a statue of 'Stone Girl' in the courtyard. A night-time monstrous witch she's named Buka is a frightening composite of shadows, that disappear when Zoya turns on the lights, and she turns them on often!

Mimi must go away for seven days, and promises she will back in time for Zoya's birthday. Mom has given Zoya a diary to note thoughts and activities until her return. Magician Leon, her mother's friend, agrees to look after Zoya. His stage name is The Astounding Armand, and his performance includes two doves and a dancing cane. Leon enlists Zoya as his assistant with the name Sonambula (meaning Sleepwalker), and she vows to protect the knowledge of tricks as set forth by the rules of the Society of Magicians. Zoya likes the way Leon approaches her with alternatives, instead of giving orders, e.g. 'If you stay up later, you'll be really tired, and maybe this way, we'll have time to get some supplies' (before school begins). Zoya defines school as 'an intermission to activities at Roxy's'. In Roxy Mansion, Zoya's colorful friend Flynn O'Reilly Radesau, who is Irish and Gypsy, lives with her mom, 'Mrs. Sheila - Psychic Reader'. At night Flynn and Zoya hear crying from the basement, where grouchy building superintendent Mr. Uzzle and his dog Spike live. In a night excursion to investigate, they find a pregnant cat trapped in a pipe.

This is Laurie Shaine Cunningham's first novel for teens. In lyrical prose, she gently guides readers through a flowing, sensitive tale. I enjoyed grand phrasing such as a comparison of a neighbor's plump behind to 'a great continental shelf'. It's an endearing, heart-pulling, tender narration as Zoya Blume comes to terms with her forgotten past, and embraces the present with love for those surrounding her. Zoya learns that childhood graduates to adulthood when you accept that loved ones are 'not immortal'. The front cover photo - a dove freed to fly from a pair of hands - relates to Zoya's growth and the release of her fears. The Midnight Diary of Zoya Blume is a wonderful read for all ages.

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