Zak is having a great day and can’t wait to go to the skate park with his dad and sister. He just has to do more chore and not tell any lies. Easy, right?
Zak and His Little Lies, written by J. Samia Mair and illustrated by Omar Burgess, is a fun and engaging picture book and the second in a series about Zak.
The importance of telling the truth is a difficult subject to discuss with children. Children have a natural sense that lying is wrong, and it is easy for them to get defensive. But this storybook approaches this topic wonderfully. The plot is that Zak wants to tell the truth, but keeps on telling lies. He knows that what he’s doing is wrong, but he’s more worried about the consequences of telling the truth—getting in trouble. I was reading aloud to my six- and my eight-year-old, and at one point in the story, toward the end, my eight-year-old was apparently frustrated and burst out, “Come on, Zak, pleeease,” pleading with him to do the right thing. Finally, Zak discovers that the consequences of lying are far worse than the consequences of telling the truth—you can get hurt and you can hurt those you love.
The illustrations are fabulous. I’ve raved about Burgess’s work before, and this book is equally impressive. The illustrations in this book blend the realistic and the whimsical.
Dwayne, Zak’s pet bearded dragon (I see what you did there, Mair!), adds an almost fantastical element to the story. This lizard’s antics help drive the story forward—more like a Pixar film than a realistic children’s book. Dwayne can be spotted in many pictures, including where he isn’t supposed to be.
Some of the “lies” that Zak tells are a different kind of lie–for example, he lies because he doesn’t want to admit that he doesn’t like spicy things or that he is afraid of dogs. This got me thinking about the relationship between self esteem and the confidence to tell the truth. It is nice that a picture book got thirty-something me thinking.
This book was really topic-specific, and I’m looking forward to more books about Zak that explore his character and the rest of his life more.
One minor thing that kind of bothered me is that there’s not a single picture of Zak’s mother smiling. There are pictures of her angry, pictures of her with her back to the page, and a neutral picture of her on the final page, but she never smiles.
I highly recommend the fun and approachable Zak and His Little Lies for 4–9 year olds. It is published by The Islamic Foundation (2018), you can get a copy here.
Thank you to Kube Publishing for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.