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When Zachary Beaver Came to Town

When Zachary Beaver Came to Town

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When Zachary Beaver Came to Town

4/5 (17 valoraciones)
186 página
2 horas
Jul 19, 2011


National Book Award Winner

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.

When Zachary Beaver Came to Town is the winner of the 1999 National Book Award for Young People's Literature. This title has Common Core connections.

Jul 19, 2011

Sobre el autor

Twenty three years ago Kimberly Willis Holt stopped talking about wanting to be a writer and started to pursue her dream. Because of her family's Louisiana roots she considers herself a southerner, but her father's military career took her to places beyond the South, including Paris and Guam. She's the author of more than fifteen books for a wide range of ages, many of which have won awards and honors. Her third novel, When Zachary Beaver Came to Town won the National Book Award for Young People's Literature. She writes and gardens in Texas.

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When Zachary Beaver Came to Town - Kimberly Willis Holt


Chapter One

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 all-expense-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 line 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 Coke floats, 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 right 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 ya’ll 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 sticky 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!

But it’s too late. Scarlett has already disappeared across the street. She’s probably home smearing gloss on those pouty lips while I hold her whiny sister’s lollipop fingers, standing next to my black-toothed best friend, waiting to see the fattest boy in the world.

Chapter Two

There’s not a cloud in the sky, and it’s boiling hot. Wylie Womack’s snow cone stand is across the parking lot, under the giant elm tree, and the idea is real tempting to let go of Tara’s hand and bolt for it. But that would kill any chance I would ever have with Scarlett.

Sheriff Levi Fetterman drives by, making his afternoon rounds. He slows down and looks our way. His riding dog, Duke, sits in the passenger seat. Duke is Sheriff Levi’s favorite adoptee. Anytime someone in Antler finds a stray cat or dog, they call the sheriff to pick up the animal and take it to the pound. Sheriff Levi can’t bear to dump a dog, and because of that he has a couple dozen living on his one-acre place a mile out of town. However, cats are a different story. They go straight to the pound.

Sheriff Levi waves at us, then heads on his way. He drives all the way down Main Street and turns toward the highway.

Finally the skinny guy selling tickets moves to the top step in front of the trailer door. Even though he smokes a pipe, his baby face, braces, and tux make him look like he’s ready for the eighth-grade formal. From the front his hair looks short, but he turns and I notice a ponytail hangs down his back.

Welcome, fine folks, he yells like a carnival barker. His voice is older than his face—deep and clear like a DJ’s. Step this way to see Zachary Beaver, the fattest boy in the world. Six hundred and forty-three pounds. You don’t have to rush, but keep in mind others behind you want a look too. My name is Paulie Rankin, and I’ll be happy to take your questions.

And your money too, Cal says out of the corner of his mouth. By the way, can you loan me two bucks? I nod and peel two dollars from my wallet.

Tara jumps and jumps. "I can’t wait! I can’t wait! Do you think he’s fatter than Santa?

How would I know? I grumble.

Cal kneels next to her. I’ll bet he’s three times fatter than Santa.

Her eyes grow big. "Oooh! That’s real fat."

Cal likes little kids, but then, he sometimes acts like one. Maybe because he’s the youngest in the family. He has two brothers and one sister. His oldest brother, Wayne, is in the army, serving in Vietnam. He’s the kind of big brother I wish I had.

Wayne writes to Cal every week. But Cal is so lazy, he hardly ever writes him back. If I had a brother in Vietnam that wrote me letters saying what a neat brother I was, I’d always write him back.

Cal reads every letter to me. Wayne never says anything about the kind of stuff we see on the news—no blood and guts. He writes about home. How he misses lying in bed, listening to Casey Kasem and Wolfman Jack on the radio. How he wishes he could eat a Bahama Mama snow cone from Wylie Womack’s stand and let the syrup run down his fingers. And how the worst day of his life, before he got drafted, was the day he missed catching that fly ball during the Bucks-Cardinals game because he was too busy watching some girl walk up the stands in her pink hot pants. He says he’d live that day over a hundred times if it meant he could come back home. Wayne makes Antler sound like the best place on the face of the earth. Sometimes he even adds: P.S. Tell your buddy Toby I said hey.

The line moves slowly, and when people exit the trailer, some come out all quiet like they’ve been shaken up at a revival. A few say things like, Lord-a-mercy! Others joke and laugh.

Finally we make it to the front door. I hand Paulie Rankin four bucks and glance down at Tara. Legs crossed, she’s bouncing like crazy.

Paulie pulls the pipe out of his mouth. Hey, the kid doesn’t have to go, does she?

Do you? I ask her, not intending to sound as mean as it comes out.

She shakes her head, making her two tiny blond ponytails flop like puppy ears.

She better not, says Paulie. He rubs his chin and watches her suspiciously as we climb the trailer steps.

I grit my teeth and repeat Paulie’s warning. You better not.

The cramped trailer smells like Pine-Sol and lemon Pledge and it’s dark except for a lamp and sunlight slipping between the crack in the curtains. A drape hangs at one end, hiding the space behind it. And in the middle of the trailer sits the largest human being I’ve ever seen. Zachary Beaver is the size of a two-man pup tent. His short black hair tops his huge moon face like a snug cap that’s two sizes too small. His skin is pale as buttermilk, and his hazel eyes are practically lost in his puffy cheeks.

Wearing huge pull-on pants and a brown T-shirt, he sits in front of a television, watching Password, drinking a giant chocolate milk shake. A TV Guide rests on his lap, and a few stacks of books and Newsweek magazines are at his feet along with a sack of Lay’s potato chips. Three Plexiglas walls box him in. The walls aren’t very high, but I figure they keep brats like Tara from poking him. After all, he’s not the Pillsbury Doughboy. A sign in the corner of one wall reads, Don’t Touch the Glass, but if someone does, a squirt bottle of glass cleaner and a roll of paper towels are next to the TV.

There’s no denying it—this place is clean with a capital C. And with the exception of a dusty bookcase filled with encyclopedias and other books, it’s as sterile as a hospital. A gold cardboard box is on the center shelf by itself.

It seems weird, standing here, staring at someone because they look different. Wylie Womack is the strangest-looking person in Antler, but I’m so used to seeing his crooked body riding around town in his beat-up golf cart that I don’t think about him looking weird.

Miss Myrtie Mae steps forward, lifting her camera. Mind if I take a few pictures?

Yes, I do, the fat kid says.

Miss Myrtie Mae lets the camera drop to her chest. You like books, I see. I work at the Antler library.

Zachary Beaver ignores her.

For once Tara is quiet, but Cal is anything but speechless. He wants to know everything. Like a redheaded woodpecker, he pecks, pecks, pecks, trying to make a dent.

How much do you eat? he asks Zachary.

As much as I can.

How old are you?

Old enough.

Where do you go to school?

You’re looking at it. Zachary never once smiles or looks us in the eye. He focuses on that game

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  • (4/5)
    One summer in the small, sleepy town of Antler, Texas, Toby Wilson's life changes. Toby is a boy who lives with his parents, but his mother runs off to Nashville to enter a singing contest. She doesn't win but she doesn't come home to Antler either.
    Later, he and his best friend Cal McKnight meet an extremely overweight, adolescent sideshow freak named Zachary Beaver, who has no parents or friends. Zachary, "The Fattest Boy Ever," spends most of his time in a camp trailer which has hooked up to the Bowl - a - rama for electricity.He is abandoned by is his leagal guadian, Paulie. The townspeople bring him food but Zachary never leaves the tiny trailer. Toby and Cal get to know him, and soon become friends with him even though Zachary is grouchy and doesn't always tell the truth. Toby and Cal discover Zachary had a Baptismal Bible but it only has his name it. Nothing else has been filled out. They set out on a mission to get Zachary baptised. He is of course too big to fit in the local church Baptismal pool.
    A good coming of age story. Sweet, bittersweet.

    A movie was made of this book in 2003.
  • (5/5)
    Toby lives in the tiny Texas town of Antler, where nothing ever happens. The time is early 1970s, and his best friend's brother was drafted and sent to fight in Vietnam. His own mother has taken off for Nashville, Tennessee to try to make it as a country music star. His quiet, distant father works at the post office and farms worms on the side.And then a trailer is towed into town, advertising a peek at Zachary Beaver, "The Fattest Boy in the World," for only $2. Everyone in town wants to look. The man taking the money, and taking care of Zachary, takes off in the middle of the night, leaving the massive boy in his trailer. Somehow, all of these things feel linked together in some invisible way, and the presence of Zachary Beaver, makes the other issues Toby and his friends are dealing with a little easier to swallow.
  • (4/5)
    I checked out an audiobook version from the library because it was recommended to me and right away the title sounded really familiar. Once I hit the part where Zachary Beaver calls Toby and Cal a bunch of perverts for creeping up to his trailer I decided to check out google and lo and behold...I saw the movie. And then after finishing the book, I felt robbed. Toby's summer vacation has just started. His best friend Cal and him have a full summer ahead of them between small summer jobs and just having fun. A freak show act comes to town only there's just one person in the act. Dubbed the fattest boy in the world, Zachary Beaver is displayed for everyone to gawk at his body all while getting charged an entrance fee. As the two boys get to know this boy they gain a friend and also strengthen their own friendship.I remember watching the movie and hating it. I thought it was pretty dumb how petty Cal was and was annoyed by Toby. Keep in mind I was also their age when I first saw the movie so I thought I could relate to them pretty well. But having read the book I noticed big differences that made me change my mind about the story. I'm aware that in order to fit a book into a 90 minute film there have to be some cuts and changes so I do feel like they robbed Toby of some growth. And then I don't think they did a good job of showing the kind of friendship the two boys had. There were some things that I wasn't a big fan of when it came to the book as a whole but overall I really liked it and I'm kind of shocked because I really hated the movie.
  • (2/5)
    I found this book at a library sale a year or two ago. Bought it because of the National Book Award medal on its cover. Didn't realize until I got it home that it was a children's book. Not even a YA book, to my mind, but a CHILDREN'S book. And that realization sank in pretty quickly as I began reading it. I'll be frank. I found WHEN ZACHARY BEAVER CAME TO TOWN (first published in 1999) just not very believable. I don't think even a twelve or thirteen year-old kid would find it very plausible, with its premise of "the fattest boy in the world" arriving in the small town of Antler, Texas, and gradually becoming friends with some kids and other townspeople when his guardian abandons him there for a couple weeks. And the two main characters, Toby and Cal, are just cardboard stereotypes of what the author considers thirteen year-old boys to be. NOT.There's a little of everything in here, all with small lessons to teach: compassion for someone 'different,' fragmented families, a brother gone away to war (Vietnam), an unrequited first crush, curiosity about religious faith, old folks, small town life, death, etc. All these elements are blended blandly together, with intermittent scenes of the two friends racing madly about town on their bicycles, like the kids in E.T. or STAND BY ME. I know, I'm at least sixty years too old to appreciate this stuff, but the thing is I doubt that the audience it's aimed at would find it very compelling either. It's just too ... too, well, hokey, for want of a better word. I think the author, Holt, just doesn't give her young readers enough credit. The whole story seems to be 'talking down' to them. Or at least that's my take on it. Sorry, Ms Holt. Uh-uh. Reading this treacly stuff was a boring chore. I finished it, but I still can't believe it won a NBA. Not recommended.- Tim Bazzett, author of the memoir, BOOKLOVER
  • (3/5)
    This book was okay.
  • (4/5)
    This was my first Holt book but it certainly won't be my last. This is an accomplished book. I really felt like I was following the lives of several youths in a small Texas town during summer. Characters are quickly developed by Holt and are the kind you'd like to see on TV and even meet. The story reads and feels real to me. I'd recommend this to any kid 11 and up and any adult too.
  • (5/5)
    I would give this book SIX stars if I could! It is so well-written. Antler,Texas is the setting for a story about some very special friendships. I think this is what 'growing up' is all about! Read it and enjoy!!
  • (5/5)
    This book is a heartwarming, adventurous tale of a young's boys summer in an ordinary old boring country town. The main character, Toby, is accompanied throughout his escapades by his best friend Cal. The two spend their days summer days doing the same old stuff, like riding bike, going to the local bowl-o-rama, sneaking visits to the lake, and eating bahama mama snow cones. All is normal in the town until Zachary, the worlds fattest boy comes for a visit. Zachary, lives in a trailer traveling the country to different carnivals with his guardian making money from people charging to get peak at him. After the show, his guardian leaves him alone while he runs off to book a few more shows. Toby and Cal befriend Zachary and change his life forever by looking at him a a real person just like them. They story also deals with the loss of a loved one during Vietnam through the prospective of a child's eyes. Young love, parents fighting, and religion are all themes in the book as well. This book is definitely worth a read!
  • (5/5)
    It's the thirteenth summer of Toby Wilson's life; the summer he falls in love, the summer his mom leaves for good, the summer his best friend's brother goes to Vietnam. And it's the summer Zachary Beaver comes to town. At first, the only thing Toby and his best friend Cal can figure out about Zachary is that he's the fattest boy in the world. They visit him in the little trailer where people can go to see him, and slowly learn more about his life as a sideshow. But they also learn a lot about growing up.Told from Toby's point of view, this book is full of wonderful characters. There's the love of his life, the sensuous Scarlett Stalling, in love with someone else; his father, quiet and preoccupied with his worm-farming business; his best friend Cal, full of mischief and jokes; and his mother, who has gone to Nashville to become a big time country star. These characters, with their flaws and their blessings, come alive for the reader. A wonderful portrait of small town living in an era fraught with danger and upheaval. Grades 7--10.
  • (4/5)
    This book is rather strange as it is about the arrival and exploitation of a 600 pound boy to a small town. It is an interesting, coming of age story of small town kids.
  • (4/5)
    Great coming-of-age book. Made me laugh, made me cry.
  • (4/5)
    Nothing ever happens in the small rural town of Antler, Texas, until one day the monotony comes to a screeching halt. Zachary Beaver, the fattest boy in the world, rings in a summer of change for Toby WIlson with his arrival into town. Toby and his best friend Cal struggle to make sense of a changing world and their status in it as they tip toe into an unexpected friendship with the sideshow aspiring Zachary. Both Toby and Cal deal with changing family dynamics and the reality of wartime America. The story takes places in a small rural town where a new face is recognized by all and news spreads within hours. The culture of this small town is as much a part of the story as the developing friendship between the three boys. The honest voices of Toby and Cal set the tone for this coming of age novel, and would make a great read for young men between the ages of 11 and 17.
  • (5/5)
    A children's book that transcends all ages. When 600 pound Zachary Beaver arrived in sleepy little Antler Texas via a tiny, teeny trailer, the town folk paid $2 each to see the "freak. "When Zachary Beaver Came to Town and was abandoned by his agent the town folk who previously gawked at him now leave food, wash his clothes and find help. Set in the 70's and the Viet Nam era, This National Book Award winner is a coming of age story containing many wonderful lessons learned by a trio of three young boys.Dealing with difficult issues of abandonment, loss and grief, this is a powerfully written story.
  • (4/5)
    When Zachary Beaver came to town he was a freak show in a carnival because he was obese. After he is abandoned by the owner of the carnival the town adopts him and helps take care of him. This is a beautiful story of how humanity and kindness win out in the face of cruelty.
  • (4/5)
    A very good book. I really enjoyed the story and the characters.