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'School Librarian', the journal of the School Library Association
Vol. 52 no 3 Autumn 2004
Zak is an unusual 11-year-old. He could see out of his mother’s womb, and learned to read upside down while waiting to be born. On his first day at school he did not like the way he was being treated so he flew out the window and never returned – and he can talk to animals and birds.
On a family holiday to River Island, a small island in a river between Canada and the USA, Zak soon makes friends with the island animals - a squirrel and an owl. They show him the mysterious ‘Zing’, which is akin to a meditative state enhancing his respect for nature and its power.
This is an original, quirky and amusing novel, that will encourage youngsters to become more aware of nature’s subtle processes. The story moves along at an energetic pace, and Bridget Belgrave neatly intersperses the magical elements with the more commonplace. I am sure that ecologists will also welcome this book, and it is one to be recommended.
Review by Robin Banks
An enchanting children’s fable that celebrates the beauty of the natural world and the possibility of mankind interacting with it in a more magical and respectful way.Juno magazine - a natural approach to family life
Juno magazine - a natural approach to family life
Issue 13, Winter 2007
"I am not exactly a usual boy. And I started being unusual even before I was born..." Zak is able to fly and converse with animals. These two skills, which most children crave, take him on astonishing adventures during one family holiday on River Island.
Through his encounters with the animals and their world, Zak finds the wondrous 'zing' that develops where Nature is undisturbed by humans. Bridget Belgrave has spent ten years as a Nonviolent Communication trainer and in her novel she explores concepts of respect, warmth and acceptance in ways that will resonate with readers upwards of seven years.
'Connect' – a magazine for Positive Living
I have come across this book written by a leading internationally acclaimed Nonviolent Communication trainer Bridget Belgrave. I read it in one go completely absorbed. I felt warm and comforted by the connection to nature, magic and the essential positivity of human nature depicted. I especially appreciated the lack of violence, labelling and name calling by the characters and at the same time the character and story development were completely believable and absorbing. A story which inspires me to live more in tune with nature and its magical ‘Zing’ energy fields. I believe this to be a classic which would promote creativity, peacefulness and well being in our children. It is a fantastic school novel or gift for 8 years-adults.
Review by Shoshana Moskowitz
Tregolwyn Book Reviews
Zak is no ordinary boy. He can perform conjuring tricks, he can talk to animals, he can fly, and -- strangest of all -- he enjoys knitting. However, even Zak is unprepared for the events that befall him on a family holiday to the Thousand Islands group in Canada’s St Lawrence river.
Ideally, children's books should be reviewed by children. Only a child can truly judge whether the author has the right "voice" to communicate effectively with them. In this case, I'm prepared to stick my neck out and say that Bridget Belgrave has got it right. This is easy reading for any age group, without being in any way condescending. Zak's speech and narrative style reflect the age he is meant to be (eleven), but the novel could be read by (or to) anyone from the age of about five upwards. I must also warn the adult reader that, once you pick up this story, you are not going to put it down readily, and the 157 pages are liable to disappear in a flash, just like the egg in one of Zak's magic tricks.
The opening chapters, in which Zak recounts the early part of his life, are reminiscent of Kate Atkinson's Behind the Scenes at the Museum. Although this is a fantasy, it is almost as straightforward for an adult to believe in as it would be for a child. The narrator is so matter-of-fact about his special gifts and the way he first discovered them that it seems the most natural thing in the world for an eleven-year-old boy to be able to fly -- though of course, he can only do this when the neighbours are not around, otherwise he would risk embarrassing his parents.
Since the animals, including a particularly horrible-looking reptilian monster, are Zak's friends, and hence the heroes and heroines of the story, the villain has to be a human, in this case another boy, Sam. In the course of his Canadian adventure, Zak discovers that he is not as unique as he has hitherto assumed, and he needs help from another gifted human in order to work to undo Sam's unintentional cruelty. In the course of sharing his talents, Zak discovers he has acquired still more. Is this trading on every child's fantasy, offering them the kind of power they may long for but can never have? And if it is, don't the Harry Potter books do the self-same thing?
All in all, this is a great story for children, with potential to be as successful as some of those we have come to regard as classics. Bridget Belgrave is a talented author with a real feel for juvenile psychology. I suspect she also has an eye for a sequel.
Review by Deborah Fisher
5.0 out of 5 stars WOW .... WOW .... WOW, 8 April 2007
Samantha Martell (Oxford, UK)
Wow ....... what an amazing book !! I read it a year ago when I had just turned 12, it came it to our house as my younger brother is Zak too!! I thought that I would find it difficult to read and believe as I was growing up and didn't really imagine anymore .... how wrong could I have been ?? It was great ....... Bridget made this book really believable and managed to capture my imagination (something that's hard to do)!!! My younger brother had it read to him although some parts were changed as he was very sensitive to nightmares at the time. Now we think that he is ready to have it read properly and enjoy the book to its full possibilities. Thank you everyone who put this book into print and of course to Bridget Belgrave who let her imagination fly and let mine do the same !!!!
Jazmin age 13 (Sam's daughter)
5.0 out of 5 stars Magically Real, 20 April 2007
Lori Crockett (Claremont, CA USA)
I've read Zak numerous times over the past three years. First to my own daughters, then to their class and others since. Everyone who has "met" Zak loves him...I know I do. Each time I read "Zak," there is the joy of returning to an old friend, yet a newness, as I discover more about him and the other characters. There is a realness about "Zak" and my greatest wish is to met up with him again when Bridget Belgrave writes more of his story.
5.0 out of 5 stars Zak is a treasure for all children., 12 Oct 2004
I just finished reading Zak. It is a wonderful book full of wonders. Bridget Belgrave, if you are on the wire, thank you for enriching us so wonderly! It would be an unfulfilling attempt if I tried to describe all the many interwoven qualities of Zak. I will just list some. The book fulfils a need of mine that reading material is available to young children which stimulate their ability to wonder and think about humans, nature, social skills, thoughts, reading, writing, and natural science. The book is kept in an unusually accessible, yet interesting writing style that also stimulates vocabulary learning. This book is a treasure to early readers. I think that it also a treasure to late readers and children who has been categorized as being dyslexic. So few books are available for this group of children and almost none that brings the children joy and interest in reading. Zak by Bridget Belgrave is a gift for all of us.
Jakob Bohr, Humlebaek, Denmark
A boy who likes to wonder and learn (physicist; born in 1957).
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent for children and adults, 9 Aug 2005
By A Customer
I loved the way that really important life issues were addressed with such a light touch, and in a way that never interfered with the very exciting narrative. I hope many, many children and their parents may enjoy this beautiful story.
5.0 out of 5 stars Fabulous read!, June 15, 2010
Wendy (Oakland, Ca, USA)
We met the author of this book before we read the book, she was wonderful. Then, we bought the book and LOVED it! I have 2 boys, at the time ages 11 and 6, and both were enthralled with the story. We had some great discussions about life throughout the read. It's about an 11-yr old boy who is "different" and how he used his supernatural talents and found his place in the world. I can't recommend this book enough, in fact I'm on-line right now buying a second for another boy's birthday present! The author said she was planning to write another and I'm keeping my eyes open for that one. If your child likes flying, connections with the Earth, real friendships, and adventure then this book would be for them.