Kai Zu and the Orphan’s Pyramid: A Cartoon Novel
1030 Books (2010)
Reviewed by Marissa Libbit for Reader Views (10/10)
“Kai Zu and the Orphan’s Pyramid” by Kamenn Lechiffe is the story of Kai and other foster kids he meets who have failed to be adopted. At the age of eleven such kids are placed in the orphan’s pyramid and given O-pad chips in their arms that countdown the time they have (three years) to make it to the top of the pyramid through seven levels in order to be sent to an orphan boarding school (a good thing). Most children don’t even leave the first level, though, as they are content with an abundance of junk food, television viewing, and videogames. No one knows upon entry into the pyramid what happens to those children that “expire” after three years. But Kai has no interest in sitting around to find out. The trouble is that the challenge of making it through the levels is daunting to say the least. Helping Kai along the way is a misfit group of friends including Imogen, a bearded girl, and Sheena, a former rolling skating captain. Getting to a new level requires ingenuity, and each step up is more bizarre than the one before.
“Kai Zu” is one of those books I picked up having no idea what it would truly be like. The back cover sounded odd, but what’s between the book’s covers is even more bizarre. Yet, I couldn’t put it down! I loved this book. It both intrigued me and repulsed me at times. I wasn’t sure if Mr. Lechiffe was taking a tongue-in-cheek approach to the sad state of the foster care system for older kids or a depressing approach. Either way, I felt for these characters every step up the way (and sometimes literally one step could change their path). I do pause and think about those children that are “unadoptable,” and it breaks my heart. Though the characters are children, I believe this book is best for adults.
A measure of a good book in my mind is when I can’t let go of characters in my mind. That is how I feel about the characters in “Kai Zu and the Orphan’s Pyramid.” What a wild ride this book is, filled with simple yet enriching cartoons at the page headers, but it is a ride worth taking. I am actually begging Mr. Lechiffe to please continue this story. I can’t leave these characters alone yet.