Quirky to the Max

Zeb and the Great Ruckus by Joshua Donellan

First Look:

Cute illustration style, although the kids look too old and Flip looks as though she may be swooning with an unrequited crush.  Not true: only platonic friend love here!  The Aleph is somewhere in the grey area between adorable and creepy, which…is just about right!

Jacket Copy:

“This is a story made from pieces of all the dreams that you had when you were asleep, but then forgot when you woke up.”

Hello! You are reading this in order to determine whether or not this book will be of interest to you ! Well, congratulations, you obviously have fabulous taste! Zeb and the Great Ruckus is a story about magic, music, fireworks, bewilderbeasts, clockwork birds and weaponised toffee. It has some funny bits, some scary bits, some sad bits, and a rather large bit about a cave-dwelling ruttersnarl which we would tell you about but we don’t want to give away the ending. If you like the sounds of any or all of the above, then this is the book for you ! If you would rather read a complete history of European haberdashery, please consult your local book emporium.


Not to my knowledge; I didn’t see any room left for a sequel, and I’m good with that.  I enjoyed it, but its completeness would just be offended by making it a series.  I would be okay with reading further unrelated works by Donellan, though.

Worth Reading?

If you recognized this scene and squeed with delight, congratulations!  Zeb will be right up your alley!  It’s super quirky, but still sweet as one of Ned’s pies.  If you have no idea what I’m talking about, read on!  If you recognized the scene and said, “Yuck!”, this book is Probably Not For You.  Of course, it’s unlikely that we’ll agree about any taste issues, so why are you reading this blog?

Notable Things:

Strange Creatures!  Like wereflamingos!  And Alephs!  And Ruttersnarls!

Plucky Kids!  ‘Nuff said.

The Magic of Music!  Art, music, and creativity are highly valued in the text.


Zeb is a fun, quick middle-grade novel that should encourage reluctant readers that there are things they can enjoy.  There are a few illustrations scattered throughout the novel, but more than that, there is an acknowledgement that not all smart kids enjoy school, there are jokes on almost every page, there are strange and unique mythical creatures, there are condemnations of bullying, and it’s written in a very simple, breezy style that still manages to be smart.  There were a few instances concerning Smokey which gave me pause, calling to mind the “Magical Negro” trope, but it was not pronounced enough to qualify in my mind.


I received a free digital ARC from the publisher via NetGalley.



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