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Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite
Zegar Mazel: It All Started in 1951 is a collection of autobiographical adventure stories for children written by Marc Zegar. Zegar was in his forties when he finally started his family, and, due to his personal circumstances, he had to raise them without their experiencing other family members besides their mom and dad. Each night, he would tell them a story based on his life growing up on the East Coast during the 1950s. His mom worked the farmers’ market as a presenter, and Marc was usually absent from school on Fridays because of that fact. Marc loved the hustle and bustle of the Amish farmers' market and still wonders about the lovely girl who sold the pretzels her father and brother would make. His most memorable farmers' market experiences, however, were to be found on Staten Island where a driving range became both a learning and enterprising experience, and the neighboring airfield where an elderly man took him up for a flight in his private plane. Mom’s business also took them to Atlantic City and the famous Boardwalk, where Marc marvelled at the diving horses and Mr. Peanut, dressed in top-hat and tails. A lot can happen in 10 years, and it had been a while back for him as Zegar recounted these tales for his kids, but he enjoyed reminiscing and sharing those moments with them. This book was a natural outgrowth of those evening tales.
Marc Zegar’s collection of autobiographical adventure stories for children, Zegar Mazel: It All Started in 1951, is a sheer joy to read and an often hilarious look at the things kids can get into, no matter what the situation. I love this book! I was grinning like a fool while reading it except for those times I was laughing out loud. Zegar brings his childhood adventures into glowing Technicolor, and each one was glorious. My favorites? Well, there were quite a few, but Halloween on the Ridge, No Tonka Toy and Bombs Away would definitely rank up there. The Strongest Man in the World, and the ensuing stories that deal with race and racial inequality, are powerful and unforgettable. Having grown up at approximately the same time as Marc, I felt a kinship of sorts reading his stories. I instinctively knew when he had trouble not laughing a bit as he shared some of these stories, and could feel the magic that was Halloween throughout the narration of that masterful tale. I remember those amazing popcorn balls his grandmother so painstakingly made, and enjoying the other homemade goodies that neighborhood grannies and moms would make. Halloween was indeed magical back then. If you were there, you’ll love reminiscing with Marc; if you weren’t, live it vicariously through his marvelous stories. Zegar Mazel: It All Started in 1951 is most highly recommended.