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When Zachary Beaver Came to Town



Last updated Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Author: Kimberly Willis Holt
Date of Publication: 1999
ISBN: 0805061169
Grade Level: 4th    (GLCs: Click here for grade level guidelines.)
Date(s) Used: May 2006

Synopsis: "The red words painted on the trailer caused quite a buzz around town and before an hour was up, half of Antler was standing in line with two dollars clutched in hand to see the fattest boy in the world."

"Toby Wilson is having the toughest summer of his life. It's the summer his mother leaves for good; the summer his best friend's brother returns from Vietnam in a coffin. And the summer that Zachary Beaver, the fattest boy in the world, arrives in their sleepy Texas town. While it's a summer filled with heartache of every kind, it's also a summer of new friendships gained and old friendships renewed. And it's Zachary Beaver who turns the town of Antler upside down and leaves everyone, especially Toby, changed forever."

With understated elegance, Kimberly Willis Holt tells a compelling coming-of-age story about a thirteen-year-old boy struggling to find himself in an imperfect world. At turns passionate and humorous, this extraordinary novel deals sensitively and candidly with obesity, war, and the true power of friendship.

Note to readers:
•  The Zachary Beaver of the title doesn?t show up much in the early chapters. You might consider reading chapters 1-4, skipping 5, and trying to read 6.

Discussion topics for before reading:
•  This book is written in the present tense. What is meant by present tense and past tense? What are some example sentences in present and past tense?
•  This story takes place in a very small town. How would life in a very small town be different from your life in the big city of Los Angeles?
•  Have you ever made up your mind about people based just on how they looked and then later, when you got to know them, found out they were not what you thought?

Discussion topics for during/after reading:
•  How does Toby feel about himself and his life? Is he happy or unhappy?
•  Cal?s brother is away fighting in the Vietnam War. Do you know anything about that war? Do you know anyone who is fighting now in the war in Iraq?
•  This book uses lots of interesting similes. Review similes with students (comparing two unlike things using ?like? or ?as?) and have them listen for some. Some excellent examples are on page 12, when the boys get their first view of Zachary Beaver.
•  When the boys first see Zachary Beaver, how do you think Toby feels? How do you think Zachary Beaver feels?
•  Do you know kids who look ?different? in some way? How are they treated?
•  This story takes place in the Panhandle part of Texas. Can you find Texas on a map? Which part is the Panhandle? Why do you think it?s called that?
•  What do Toby and Cal do to have fun? What do you and your friends do to have fun?
•  How do you think Zachary Beaver will be important in the story? Do you think the boys will change their ideas about him?

Craft ideas:
•  Have students draw a picture of Zachary Beaver in his trailer. Use the description on page 12 as a starting point.

*Note: These craft ideas are just suggestions. You can use them, but you don’t have to use them. You can expand upon them, or add your own twist. Remember, though, that the focus of your time should not be on the development and execution of a craft; the focus should be on the read-aloud and the enjoyment of the book!