Book Review: Zorori 怪杰佐罗力

Zorori (怪杰佐罗力) stories are vivid, interesting, and hilarious, creating a genre to themselves – part mystery, part comedy, and I wouldn’t know whether to classify them as a novel, graphic novel or even picture book. They’re great Simplified Chinese books for a mid-to-upper primary child who still needs some visuals to stay interested in the reading.

Key Information on Zorori series

  • Author:  Yutaka Hara 
  • Number of books in set:  57
  • Number of lines per page:  3 – 10 (very varied)
  • Number of pages per book: 85
  • Total length of the book:  ¬10,000 characters
  • Characters required by child to read it independently: 1500+
  • Pinyin: Yes (partial)
  • Bilingual: No
  • Available in Singapore NLB: Yes (12 titles)
  • Original language of publication: Japanese
  • Audio available: yes, with Luka

What the Zorori plot is about

Zorori is an eccentric fox whose goal is to be the world’s number one mischief-maker, marry a beautiful princess and make his mother proud.  He’s also a grand inventor and a little clumsy.  Zoroi and his two bandits-in-training (who are twin boars) travel around and do pretty silly/bizarre things together.  

They were first published in the 1980s, so  I’m now meeting parents of primary schoolers who are saying they read these books as a child and LOVED them, so now are introducing them to their own children.  These books were originally written in Japanese (much like many of our favourite Simplified Chinese sets) by author/illustrator Yutaka Hara.  Hara is a storytelling master, having written many popular series such as “Little Ghost”, “Spinach Man”, and “The famous fried chicken primary school”.  For some reason, Zorori series is by far the most well-known in Singapore.  In Japan, Zorori is said to be more famous than Harry Potter.

There are 70 books written in Japanese in this set, of which 57 books have been translated into Simplified Chinese (and still increasing).  It’s updated at a rate of about two books a year.  We’ve read half of them.  My daughter loves leafing through and rereading, which makes it a winning book in at our place. Given the sheer number of stories written, it’s a good indication that they’re not world-class literature, but they are certainly good sellers.

What my daughter likes about it:

  • The humour
  • The graphics
  • The silliness
  • Age appropriate for a ten year old, and not-to-hard vocabulary for a P3/P4
  • Comics, puzzles, and inventions hidden everywhere in the book (which is why she always leafs through it again and again, always finding something new)

What a mother would like about the set:

  • The typesetting is a good size and clear
  • Text and graphics are well-matched, with more text than graphics, mainly in black-and-white, with an occasional splash of colour
  • Encourages independent reading and keeps my daughter entertained
  • Encourages creativity – and appeals to my engineering brain with some of the contraptions and their corresponding illustrations
  • There are a handful of idioms hidden in the mix
  • An element of filial piety entwined (ever so slightly) throughout the stories
  • Not all the text has pinyin (although it does have some, which is still a little niggle)
  • If needed, it is compatible with Luka Reading Robot

Also, note there are some bad jokes (including backside related ones) which aren’t perfectly clean, but not vulgar either. 

Insides of the book

A picture tells 1000 words, and given that Zorori series has great pictures, I’ll just take the easy route and show you. These is the Zorori Simplified Chinese version, and I believe the Traditional Version and Japanese are each the same layout. Quite fun right?

Zorori books in  Simplified Chinese
Zorori books in Simplified Chinese
Zorori Chinese book illustrations
Very technical drawings and contraptions, which I think would particularly appeal to boys
Zorori Simplified Chinese in colour
Each Zoroli book has several pages which are full colour printed
A splash of colour

Zorori Simplified Chinese bridging book
It’s part picture book, and part graphic novel
Zorori puzzle
Every book contains fun puzzles to solve
Zorori book review
Not all the text has pinyin, but most of it does

Where to find Zorori series

The first 12 books in the series of Zorori in Simplified Chinese are available in the Singapore NLB.

All the books are readily available from several stores in Singapore and so easy to find that you won’t need any pointers from me.  Simply google or walk into a good Chinese bookstore!  If you don’t know any good bookstores, my earlier post lists my favourite ten stores Chinese children’s bookstores.

Zorori in the Singapore NLB collection
These are the main Zorori titles availability in the Singapore NLB collection

What level is it for?

It would work for any child above 5, given it has full audio recording through Luka, and also pinyin above most of the words.  For a child to read the series independently, I feel about P3/P4 equivalent in the Singapore school system.

If my child likes Zorori, what are other similar books in Simplified Chinese?

Some books which my children really enjoyed at a similar reading level to Zoroli are:

  • Mi Xiao Quan 米小圈上学记一年级 (review here)
  • Detective Pipi 屁屁侦探推理版 (review here)
  • World History Adventure Comics 寻宝记 (review here)
  • Mandarin Companion Secret Garden 秘密花园 , and Sixty Year Dream 六十年的梦 among others (review here)

I would love to know what books you think are great at this same level! Please add comments below, or through my my Instagram or Facebook feeds. It’s only through meeting other wonderful parents virtually, that this shared language journey becomes a more valuable and fun one.

If you’re in Singapore, join the conversation with other like-minded parents at the FB Group Ni Hao Singapore Primary School learning, which I host along with a few other Singapore-based bloggers.

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