________________ CM . . . . Volume XVI Number 23. . . .February 19, 2010


Zach & Zoe: Bully and the Beagle.

Kristin Butcher.
Toronto, ON: James Lorimer, 2009.
117 pp., pbk., $8.95.
ISBN 978-1-55277-427-9.

Grades 2-6 / Ages 7 -11.

Review by Janice Foster.

**** /4



Zoe jumped to her feet and pushed him. "Howie Harris, you are nothing but a stupid bully! What kind of person picks on a helpless little dog? You are so mean! I hate you! If you were a bug I'd mush you into the ground."

Howie stopped laughing and jumped up, returning Zoe's push. She stumbled backwards a few steps, but didn't fall. "Watch who you're shoving around, Zoe Gallagher," he growled.


Kristin Butcher, award-winning author of 15 children's books, provides her readers with the second novel in the "Zach & Zoe" series. Zach & Zoe: Bully and the Beagle offers an interesting perspective to the theme of bullying. Butcher has cleverly integrated the exposure of a bully's character and the underlying cause of his bullying with the special bond that children have with an animal.

      In Zach & Zoe: Bully and the Beagle, the twins, Zach and Zoe, are excited about their summer job, dog-sitting a beagle named Molly Manners for their neighbour. However, when Howie, their pushy cousin from Vancouver, arrives to stay with them for a week, an impossible situation arises. The twins have to be nice to Howie and include him in all their activities on their mother's orders. But what seems like fun for Howie is not fun for Molly or the twins. In addition to the challenge of keeping both Howie and the dog happy, the twins notice that household items begin disappearing.

      Zach & Zoe: Bully and the Beagle is an engaging novel that enables the reader to empathize with the bully. Near the end of the story, when the twins find Molly curled up beside Howie as he gently strokes her, they glimpse another side of their bullying cousin. Seeing that Molly has befriended Howie, they learn how unhappy and lonely their cousin really is. During the last few days of Howie's visit, not only the mystery of the disappearing objects is solved, but Zach, Zoe and Howie begin to build a new friendship. The inclusion of Molly the beagle in the story not only adds interest but also shows the openness that children have with animals and the unconditional trust that can grow between them.

      This book will have a strong appeal to all readers within this age group. The readable text within the 12 chapters includes realistic dialogue that will interest even the reluctant reader. The inclusion of real-life situations, such as finding something to do during summer vacation, taking care of a dog and even coping with a difficult relative, creates a personal connection with the young reader. The addition of a mystery element further grabs the audience's attention. Bullying is a common problem for children and parents.

      Zach & Zoe: Bully and the Beagle is a novel that can be shared and discussed. It highlights possible causes for bullying and illustrates the role empathy can play in solving the problem. Within a school setting, the novel would be a useful read aloud or novel study on the theme of friendship and relationships.

Highly Recommended.

Janice Foster is a recently retired teacher and teacher-librarian in Winnipeg, MB.

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

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