________________ CM . . . . Volume XV Number 10. . . .January 9, 2009


Zach & Zoe and the Bank Robber. (Streetlights).

Kristin Butcher.
Toronto, ON: James Lorimer, 2008.
112 pp., pbk, $8.95.
ISBN 978-1-55277-015-3.

Subject Headings:
Twins-Juvenile fiction.
Detective and mystery stories.

Grades 1-5 / Ages 6-10.

Review by Tanya Boudreau.

*** /4



Zoe walked over to Mr. Dotty and put a reassuring hand on his arm. "It's okay, Mr. Dotty. You don't need to keep it a secret anymore. You don't have to worry about going to jail either. Zach and I would never tell the police on you, no matter how many banks you robbed."

Mr. Dotty's mouth actually dropped open.

"It's okay," Zoe assured him again, giving his arm another pat.

Finally Mr. Dotty closed his mouth. He looked from Zoe to me and back again. "You think I robbed a bank?"

Zoe glanced at me and rolled her eyes. "He's in denial," she whispered.

"We saw it on the news, Mr. Dotty," I said. "It was on videotape and everything. You robbed that bank in Winnipeg. We saw you." I glanced towards our backpacks. "There's the proof."


Ten-year-old twins Zach and Zoe are shocked when they recognize a bank robber's face on TV. It looks like the person who stole a quarter of a million dollars is their friend and backyard neighbor Mr. Dotty, the same Mr. Dotty who refuses to own any ozone destroying cars or lawnmowers; the guy who composts and recycles everything (including birthday cards) and takes the twins for weekly excursions to the marsh eight blocks down the road.

     Although Zach and Zoe can't believe their eyes when they see their neighbor on the screen, it might explain Mr. Dotty's odd behavior, frugal lifestyle, and recent evasiveness. The last time they spoke to him, he was ghostly white. There was sweat rolling off his face and a dazed look in his eyes. He didn't look like himself, and he certainly didn't act like himself. Zach and Zoe saw Mr. Dotty skip work, take a taxi, go on a trip and lock up his garage- all things he's refused to do before. Determined to find evidence that proves Mr. Dotty's to be innocent, Zach and Zoe decide to search Mr. Dotty's locked garage. The first time they go in, they find a suitcase full of money. The second time they go in, it's to prevent Mr. Dotty from going to jail.

      Just when the author has convinced us Mr. Dotty is the bank robber, we learn the truth. It seems Mr. Dotty did come into some money, but he was acting strangely for very different reasons. In this newest book by Kristin Butcher, Zach and Zoe prove themselves to be excellent problem solvers and loyal friends- to people and marshland inhabitants!

      Zach, the narrator of the story, and his sometimes bossy and inquisitive sister, Zoe, are two characters children will enjoy getting to know. They live an exciting life. There are sleep-outs in the backyard at night, and there is crime solving in the neighborhood during the day. When they are at the marsh, their imaginations enable them to take hundreds of pictures with film-less cameras. Although their sense of duty is strong and sometimes leads them into some risky situations, Zach and Zoe can be admired for their good hearts.

      Set in Victoria, BC, (with a bank robbery in Winnipeg, MB), each of the 14 chapters in this book is six to ten pages in length. The dialogue and action-filled plot move the story along at a fast pace, and many of the chapters end at a suspenseful point. This story would be a good choice for a grade one to four read aloud or for a unit study on environmental issues such as disappearing marshlands or intergenerational friendships.

      Winnipeg-born author Kristin Butcher, who now lives in BC, has written many books for children and young adults, including the Silver Birch Award winning book, The Runaways. The second book in the Zach and Zoe series is scheduled to be out in the spring of 2009.


Tanya Boudreau is a librarian at the Cold Lake Public Library in Cold Lake, AB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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