Zack Delacruz. Me and My Big Mouth
By Jeff Anderson
Synopsis from Sterling Publishing:
Zack Delacruz is unnoticed at his middle school—and that’s just the way he likes it. But a school assembly, a typhoon of spit, and an uncharacteristic moment of bravery are all it takes to change everything. Suddenly Zack is in charge of the class fundraiser. Worse, his partner is the school’s biggest bully! If they don’t sell all the chocolate bars, there will be no dance for the sixth grade. Zack never wanted to be a hero, but with his classmates’ hopes on the line, can he save the day?
Bullying is something we hope our children will never encounter but along with more homework assignments and longer reading lists, middle school brings with it the emotional roller coaster of adolescence. An Anti-Bullying assembly seems to spur Zack to speak up for a fellow classmate when she is being teased and from that moment on his lift is changed.
I think all kids can relate to the topic of bullying, whether they’ve experienced it themselves or know someone on the end of being teased. Even though Zack Delacruz. Me and My Big Mouth unfolds in a typical “bullied child finds his courage, stands up for himself thereby winning his enemies over”, it didn’t come across as preachy. Kids will relate to the difference of opinion and perspective when it comes to the topic, like the enthusiastic adult running the anti-bullying assembly versus the eye-rolling kids in attendance.
There are adults in the story though they tend to plan secondary characters and don’t step in to solve the problems that develop. I enjoyed seeing the different family types in the book like Zack shuffling between the households of his divorced parents, Janie’s dad who works long hours, and Marquis who is raised by his grandmother known as Ma. The story illustrates that everyone has vulnerabilities, sometimes hidden behind acting out and awkward behaviour, and that sometimes doing the right thing doesn’t always make you popular.
Zack knows first hand what it’s like to be the brunt of a class joke and speaks up for someone else without knowing what he was doing. This is the type of character we want our kids to grow into, to help model a future of understanding and support. Not everyone ends up being friends, and I don’t think kids should expect that, but reminding others that we’re all trying to fit in goes a long way in creating a more accepting society.