Monday, October 19, 2009

Zac The Tax Man

Part of the Cecil & Friends series, written and illustrated by Andrew McDonough, Zac the Tax Man re-tells the biblical story of Zacchaeus. All the books in this series are funny and colorful. They make familiar stories kid-friendly by modernizing them with clever details and filling the pages with bright, cartoon-like illustrations.

While Zacchaeus is a familiar story, this book starts long before Jesus saw the "wee little man" in a Sycamore tree. The author tells of little Zac in school. He was always picked last in gym class because no one wanted the shortie on their team. He got stuck keeping score instead. This helped him get really good with numbers. When Zac grew up, he used this skill to become a very wealthy (and somewhat bitter) tax collector. Even when he climbed up a tree to see Jesus, all the people teased him. When Jesus asked him to come down and spend time with Him, Zac no longer felt sad or angry. In fact, he was happy. No one had ever been Zac's friend before. Jesus became Zac's friend and that changed everything for Zac the tax man.

At the back of the book, parents will find "Cecil's Page," a guide that helps adults teach kids the value of friendship, as well as the full Biblical text in the New International Version (NIV).

What I Like: My son's name is Zach, so this book was an instant hit in our house. My kids laughed out loud at some points! The book is very attractive. It's bright; I like the illustrations, and the size is perfect for this age (8x8"). I like the inclusion of the Biblical text in the back. I also like that the book clearly dives into Zac's feelings and how friendships (and the lack thereof) can affect those feelings. It's a good lesson.

What I Dislike: I feel uncomfortable when authors add too much to the Biblical stories, especially when written for children who are not yet able to distinguish between absolute truth and speculative details. This book supposes that Zac became a mean tax collector because he wanted to get back at all the kids who made fun of him for being so short. While this could possibly be true, I feel too much of the book focuses on imagined details.

Also, the characters throughout the series seem interchangeable. They all kinda look the same. This isn't a problem if you only have one of the Cecil & Friends books, but if you have more than one, it can be distracting. My kids noticed this and wondered why Jonah and Zac had the same face and the same friends. Even so, they enjoy the books and want to read them again and again.

Overall Rating: Good.

Age Appeal: 4-8

Publisher Info: ZonderKidz, 2009; ISBN: 0310719496; Paperback; $4.99

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