When Zachary Beaver Came to Town

Off the Bookshelf

When Zachary Beaver Came to Town

by Kimberly Willis Holt

Henry Holt & Co., 231 pp., $16.95

Following Austin resident Louis Sachar's 1998 National Book Award victory for Holes in the young person's literature category, Texas once again came away with a winner when Amarillo's Kimberly Willis Holt claimed the prize in 1999 for this moving novel. In the late Sixties in the tiny town of Antler, Texas, Toby Wilson's mother has run off to Nashville to try to nab a recording contract. Feeling abandoned, Toby finds solace with his friend Cal, who has worries of his own -- a beloved brother fighting in Vietnam. Then one day "an old blue Thunderbird pulls a trailer decorated with Christmas lights into the Dairy Maid parking lot," and inside is 15-year-old Zachary Beaver, "the fattest boy in the world" -- a spectacle that Antler residents pay $2 to see. When Zachary's guardian pulls out of town, leaving him alone in the trailer, Toby and Cal embark on a reluctant friendship with the boy. Holt masterfully creates the dusty town and quirky people of Antler, and in Toby she captures the sharp yet vulnerable voice of a young boy slugging through the trials of adolescence.

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When Zachary Beaver Came to Town, Kimberly Willis Holt

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