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Zak


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Success Stories

by Bridget Belgrave


Zak is no ordinary boy. He can perform conjuring tricks, he can talk to animals, he can fly, and -- strangest of all -- he enjoys knitting. However, even Zak is unprepared for the events that befall him on a family holiday to the Thousand Islands group in Canada's St Lawrence river.

Ideally, children's books should be reviewed by children. Only a child can truly judge whether the author has the right "voice" to communicate effectively with them. In this case, I'm prepared to stick my neck out and say that Bridget Belgrave has got it right. This is easy reading for any age group, without being in any way condescending. Zak's speech and narrative style reflect the age he is meant to be (eleven), but the novel could be read by (or to) anyone from the age of about five upwards. I must also warn the adult reader that, once you pick up this story, you are not going to put it down readily, and the 157 pages are liable to disappear in a flash, just like the egg in one of Zak's magic tricks.

The opening chapters, in which Zak recounts the early part of his life, are reminiscent of Kate Atkinson's Behind the Scenes at the Museum. Although this is a fantasy, it is almost as straightforward for an adult to believe in as it would be for a child. The narrator is so matter-of-fact about his special gifts and the way he first discovered them that it seems the most natural thing in the world for an eleven-year-old boy to be able to fly -- though of course, he can only do this when the neighbours are not around, otherwise he would risk embarrassing his parents.

Since the animals, including a particularly horrible-looking reptilian monster, are Zak's friends, and hence the heroes and heroines of the story, the villain has to be a human, in this case another boy, Sam. In the course of his Canadian adventure, Zak discovers that he is not as unique as he has hitherto assumed, and he needs help from another gifted human in order to work to undo Sam's unintentional cruelty. In the course of sharing his talents, Zak discovers he has acquired still more. Is this trading on every child's fantasy, offering them the kind of power they may long for but can never have? And if it is, don't the Harry Potter books do the self-same thing?



zak.jpg

ISBN 0 953 9563 34
Published by Life Resources, 2003
157pp, paperback
Retail price 4.99

Open Book

Review by Deborah Fisher
 
 

 

 

All in all, this is a great story for children, with potential to be as successful as some of those we have come to regard as classics. Bridget Belgrave is a talented author with a real feel for juvenile psychology. I suspect she also has an eye for a sequel. What more can I say?

Well, I've reserved one final word for the proof-reader: "ITS"!!!!!

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