The Zack Files Series

Book review by
Carrie Kingsley, Common Sense Media
The Zack Files Series Book Poster Image
Silly stories of 10-year-old Zack's improbable adventures.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Some random facts are sprinkled throughout the books, but the stories are more goofy than educational.

Positive Messages

The kids in these books learn simple lessons about honesty, friendship, and persistence, and about the right time and place for humor.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The adults -- especially Zack's dad -- are patient, good-natured, and supportive of Zack's wacky circumstances.

Violence & Scariness

Zack sometimes finds himself in tricky situations, but the suspense only lasts a few pages. 

Language

There are a few potty-talk-level words ("butt," "toots") that younger readers might not have encountered in books before.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Dan Greenburg's The Zack Files series is a funny, wacky look at a 10-year-old boy's improbable adventures in and out of school. The stories are simple, and the premise of each story is impossible -- Neanderthals coming to life in a museum, or a great-grandpa reincarnated as a talking cat at the animal shelter -- which makes Zack's adventures even funnier. Zack takes care to tell the reader that his parents are divorced, and that most of these crazy things happen when he's with his dad. It's a short paragraph in each book, but it sets the tone for the supportive, loving father-son relationship in the pages that follow.

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What's the story?

No amount of craziness is out of the question in the THE ZACK FILES series. Ten-year-old Zack constantly finds himself in strange situations, like when he goes to a séance and his body is occupied by the ghost of Queen Victoria, or when his class leaves him behind at the museum and the Neanderthals come to life. The adults in Zack's world -- especially his single dad -- accept all of this as normal and try to help Zack and his friends solve the problems.

Is it any good?

Kids will love reading these stories. They're a zany, fast-paced introduction to chapter books, and the short sentences are written in the casual way that most kids talk to each other. There's just enough suspense to the stories in The Zack Files books to keep things interesting, but nothing so complex that it will frustrate a beginning reader. The vocabulary isn't challenging and the plots are very simple, so slightly more advanced readers will zip through these books but will likely still enjoy them.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how the adults in The Zack Files don't hesitate to believe Zack's crazy stories and participate in his odd situations. No one seems bothered by a cat that speaks? Would you believe that?

  • What other books have you read that put kids in unrealistic but really fun situations? Do you ever wish you could join them? What kind of adventure would you like to go on? 

  • Have your friends ever told you a story you were sure was made up but turned out to be true? What made you think it was true?

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