When Zachary Beaver Came to Town

When Zachary Beaver Came to Town

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by Kimberly Willis Holt
     
 

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Nothing ever happens in Toby's small Texas town. Nothing much until this summer that's full of big changes.
It's tough for Toby when his mother leaves home to become a country singer. And Toby takes it hard when his best friend Cal's older brother goes off to fight in Vietnam. But now their sleepy town is about to get an even bigger jolt with the arrival of

Overview

Nothing ever happens in Toby's small Texas town. Nothing much until this summer that's full of big changes.
It's tough for Toby when his mother leaves home to become a country singer. And Toby takes it hard when his best friend Cal's older brother goes off to fight in Vietnam. But now their sleepy town is about to get an even bigger jolt with the arrival of Zachary Beaver, billed as the fattest boy in the world. Toby is in for a summer unlike any other, a summer sure to change his life.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
When "the fattest boy in the world" rolls into Antler, Tex., in a trailer, 13-year-old Toby's perspective can't help but change. In a starred review of this National Book Award winner, PW praised the "well-developed characters, all fantastic and flawed in their own ways, [who] add plenty of spice." Ages 10-up. (Apr.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
KLIATT
To quote the review of the hardcover in KLIATT, September 1999: The summer of Toby's 13th year is full of changes. It's 1971, and his best friend Cal's big brother has gone off to fight in Vietnam. Toby's mother has left too, gone to Nashville to pursue her dream of becoming a singing star. Toby has been left behind in the tiny town of Antler, Texas with his quiet postmaster Dad, who raises worms. Toby has a crush on pretty Scarlett, but she has eyes only for Juan. The big excitement in town is the arrival of a trailer containing the fattest boy in the world—Zachary Beaver, all 643 pounds of him. This tale of Toby and Cal's growing friendship with Zachary is full of humor as well as sadness as Toby learns to deal with loss. It's beautifully and sensitively related by Holt (author of My Louisiana Sky), who displays a finely tuned sense of place and time. A rich and satisfying read. KLIATT Codes: J*—Exceptional book, recommended for junior high school students. 1999, Random House, Dell, Laurel-Leaf, 227p.,
— Paula Rohrlick
Library Journal
Gr 5-8-A humdrum Texas summer is transformed when Toby and Cal befriend a surly sideshow star, arguably "the fattest boy in the world." Holt deftly fleshes out her characters and expands their worldview beyond the borders of their small town. (Nov.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Holt reinvents the coming-of-age story, breathing life into a quirky cast of characters that inhabits the enervated town of Antler, Texas. It's said that nothing ever happens in Antler, so the arrival of a trailer decked out with Christmas lights is news. Soon the townsfolk are lining up to peek at Zachary Beaver, world's fattest boy. A master at finding the extraordinary in the ordinary, the author peoples her town with a quiet postmaster/worm-raising father, aspiring country-singer mother, watchful sheriff, eccentric judge, town historian Miss Myrtie Mae, flirt Scarlett, and, at the center of it all, sensitive narrator Toby Wilson and his sidekick, best friend Cal. In the lazy days of one summer, Toby makes a good friend, loses his mother to the Grand Ole Opry, dances under the moonlight with heartbroken Scarlett, and tries to toughen up after the death of Cal's brother, who's been serving in Vietnam. Toby is an unusually strong narrator—awkward, earnest, and conflicted—who feels bad about a lie or simple wrongdoing. He nudges the lingering, Sunday-drive of a plot forward until, in the end, the gawked-at carnival boy in the trailer proves a most unlikely means of redemption. The events of the story combined may seem no larger than a pebble underfoot, yet the characters tug at readers, gaining steadily their attention and affection. (Fiction. 10-14)

From the Publisher

“In her own down-to-earth, people-smart way, Holt offers a gift. . . . It is a lovely--at times even giddy-- date with real life.” —The Horn Book, starred review

“This book packs more emotional power than 90% of the so-called grown-up novels taking up precious space on bookshelves around the country. Kimberly Willis Holt's When Zachary Beaver Came to Town will resonate with readers.” —USA Today

“Holt may not take her readers on wild flights of fantasy, but her quiet novel offers a slice of life that's hard to resist.” —The New York Times Book Review

“As in her first novel, My Louisiana Sky, Holt humanizes the outsider without sentimentality. . . . Holt reveals the freak in all of us, and the power of redemption.” —Booklist, starred review

“Well-developed characters, all fantastic and flawed in their own ways, add plenty of spice.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review

“Holt reinvents the coming-of-age story, breathing life into a quirky cast of characters. . . . The events of the story combined may seem no larger than a pebble underfoot, yet the characters tug at readers, gaining steadily their attention and affection.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Holt deftly fleshes out her characters and expands their worldview beyond the borders of their small town.” —School Library Journal

“This tale of Toby and Cal's growing friendship with Zachary is full of humor as well as sadness as Toby learns to deal with loss. It's beautifully and sensitively related by Holt, who displays a finely tuned sense of place and time. A rich and satisfying read.” —KLIATT

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780312632120
Publisher:
Square Fish
Publication date:
07/19/2011
Edition description:
STRIPPABLE
Pages:
256
Sales rank:
241,060
Product dimensions:
5.00(w) x 7.64(h) x 0.68(d)
Age Range:
10 - 14 Years

Read an Excerpt

Nothing ever happens in Antler, Texas. Nothing much at all. Until this afternoon, when an old blue Thunderbird pulls a trailer decorated with Christmas lights into the Dairy Maid parking lot. The red words painted on the trailer cause quite a buzz around town, and before an hour is up, half of Antler is standing in line with two dollars clutched in hand to see the fattest boy in the world.

Since it's too late in the summer for firecrackers and too early for the Ladybug Waltz, Cal and I join Miss Myrtie Mae and the First Baptist Quilting Bee at the back of the line.

Miss Myrtie Mae wears a wide-brimmed straw hat. She claims that she's never exposed her skin to sun. Even so, wrinkles fold into her face like an unironed shirt. She takes her job as town historian and librarian seriously, and as usual, her camera hangs around her neck. "Toby, how's your mom?

"Fine," I say.

"That will really be something if she wins."

"Yes, ma'am, it will." My mouth says the words, but my mind is not wanting to settle on a picture of her winning. Mom dreams of following in the footsteps of her favorite singer, Tammy Wynette. Last month she entered a singing contest in Amarillo and won first place. She got a trophy and an allexpense-paid trip to Nashville for a week to enter the National Amateurs' Country Music Competition at the Grand Ole Opry. The winner gets to cut a record album.

Cars and pickups pull into the Dairy Maid parking lot. Some people make no bones about it. They just get in fine to see him. Others try to act like they don't know anything about the buzz. They enter the Dairy Maid, place their orders, and exit with Cokefloats, chocolate-dipped cones, or curlicue fries, then wander to the back of the line. They don't fool me.

The line isn't moving because the big event hasn't started. Some skinny guy wearing a tuxedo, smoking a pipe, is taking the money and giving out green tickets. Cal could stand in line forever to relieve his curiosity. He knows more gossip than any old biddy in Antler because he gathers it down at the cotton gin, where his dad and the other farmers drink coffee.

"I got better things to do than this," I tell Cal. Like eat. My stomach's been growling all the time now because I haven't had a decent meal since Mom left a few days ago. Not that she cooked much lately since she was getting ready for that stupid contest. But I miss the fried catfish and barbecue dinners she brought home from the Bowl-a-Rama Cafe, where she works.

"Oh, come on, Toby," Cal begs. "He'll probably move out tomorrow and we'll never get another chance."

"He's just some fat kid. Heck, Malcolm Clifton probably has him beat hands down." Malcolm's mom claims he's big boned, not fat, but we've seen him pack away six jumbo burgers. I sigh real big like my dad does when he looks at my report card filled with Cs. "Okay," I say. "But I'm only waiting ten more minutes. After that, I'm splitting."

Cal grins that stupid grin with his black tooth showing. He likes to brag that he got his black tooth playing football, but I know the real story. His sister, Kate, socked him good when he scratched up her Carole King album. Cal says he was sick of hearing "You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman" every stinking day of his life,

Scarlett Stalling walks toward the line, holding her bratty sister Tara's hand. Scarlett, looks cool wearing a bikini top underneath an open white blouse and hip huggers that hit fight below her belly button. With her golden tan and long, silky blond hair, she could do a commercial for Coppertone.

Scarlett doesn't go to the back of the line. She walks over to me. To me. Smiling, flashing that Ultra Brite sex appeal smile and the tiny gap between her two front teeth. Cal grins, giving her the tooth, but I lower my eyelids half-mast and jerk my head back a little as if to say, "Hey."

Then she speaks. "Hey, Toby, would y'all do me a favor?"

"Sure," I squeak, killing my cool act in one split second.

Scarlett flutters her eyelashes, and I suck in my breath. "Take Tara in for me." She passes her little sister's hand like she's handing over a dog's leash. Then she squeezes her fingers into her pocket and pulls out two crumpled dollar bills. I would give anything to be one of those lucky dollar bills tucked into her pocket.

She flips back her blond mane. "I've got to get back home and get ready. Juan's dropping by soon."

The skin on my chest prickles. Mom is right. Scarlett Stalling is a flirt. Mom always told me, "You better stay a spittin' distance from that girl. Her mother had a bad reputation when I went to school, and the apple doesn't fall far from the tree."

Cal punches my shoulder. "Great going, ladies' man!"

I watch Scarlett's tight jeans sway toward her house so she can get ready for the only Mexican guy in Antler junior High. Juan already shaves. He's a head taller than the rest of the guys (two heads taller than me). That gives him an instant ticket to play first string on our basketball team, even though he's slow footed and a lousy shot. Whenever I see him around town, a number-five-iron golf club swings at his side. I don't plan to ever give him a reason to use it.

"Fatty, fatty, two by four," Tara chimes as she stares at the trailer. "Can't get through the kitchen door."

"Shut up, squirt," I mutter.

Miss Myrtie Mae frowns at me.

Tara yanks on my arm. "Uummmm!" she hollers. "You said shut up. Scarlett! " She rises on her toes as if that makes her louder. "Toby said shut up to me!"


From the Audio Cassette (Unabridged) edition.

Copyright 2001 by Kimberly Willis Holt

Meet the Author


Kimberly Willis Holt is the author of the Piper Reed series, including Piper Reed, Navy Brat, Piper Reed, Clubhouse Queen, and Piper Reed, Rodeo Star. She has written many award-winning novels, including The Water Seeker and My Louisiana Sky, as well as the picture books Waiting for Gregory and Skinny Brown Dog. A former Navy brat herself, Holt was born in Pensacola, Florida, and lived all over the U.S. and the world—from Paris to Norfolk to Guam to New Orleans. Holt long dreamed of being a writer, but first worked as a radio news director, marketed a water park, and was an interior decorator, among other jobs. A few years after she started writing, her third book, When Zachary Beaver Came to Town, won a National Book Award for Young People's Literature. She resides in West Texas with her family.

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When Zachary Beaver Came to Town 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 94 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I like this book. We read this book in school. The only complaint i have is that it is kindof rude and possibly affensive to those who are above the average wieght. I dont suggust you buy it if you planned on reading this to younger kids that yoi are trying to teach not to steriotype. If you want to have a laugh though i do suggest it. The book is way better than the movie :)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is great when you want an easy fast clean good read. A tween classic.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
YOU HAVE TO READ THE BOOK AND WATCH THE MOVIE IT IS SO WORTH READING AND WATCHING HAVE TO READ THIS BOOK I THOUGHT THAT IT WAS SAD IN SOME PARTS BUT YO WILL LAUGH AND ENJOY THE WHOLE BOOK D LOVED EVERY PAGE I CHOULD NOT PUT IT DOWN.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is great. I read it with my class and everyone loved it. I recommend this book!
Guest More than 1 year ago
'When Zachary Beaver Came to Town' is truly one of the best books I've ever read. It's the kind of book that really doesn't seem to be about much, but yet it really is about many things. No matter what part of the book I was reading, it kept me interested. I always wanted to find out what happened next. I usually don't like books like these but there was something different about this book. It was very easy to feel like I was part of the story. I can't pinpoint what it was about the author's writing that was so good, it just was. I find it hard to read anything else because I know nothing will be as good as this book. I have read many books with more adventure in them than you can imagine. However, this book was better. Maybe it was because something like this is easier to relate to because it actually can happen. It is sad, happy, funny, and everything else. I highly recommend this book. It is better than words can describe.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is an AWSOME book. My kind of book. I met the author and she is nice. Realy nice
book_worm91 More than 1 year ago
When Zachary Beaver came to town was a good book to read. It wasn't the best book ever. It had a great story and a good message. I finish it in three days. overall I recommened this book to everyone.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Im Zach but im not nearly as as big as Zach Beaver. I sort of like this book. Im in 6th grade.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved the book. It was happy and sometimes heart throbing.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this book in 4th grade. It was unique. Loved this book. It is awesome and i would recomned it to anyone looking fira nice read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Fat with details!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am 12 and im reading this book it is sad when wayn dies and when tobys mother leaves for good over all i would highly recommend this book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Is the movie on dvd or blu ray
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
To any of you who have seen the movie........the book is way better.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The sample is pretty good. Just so you know the word sex is in the sample if that bothers you.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I absolutly LOVE this book. And I am even a picky reader, so you will probably love it too
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed reading this book its a easy read but enjoy able, few tears came across with some laughter.