Characters – Zach

Zach is short for Zacharia – all seven children of Canon Tom are named after Old Testament characters. So it is an ancient name, but it has a modern ring to it because of the popularity of alternative spellings of its short form, such as Zak, Zac, Zack – maybe even Zacc for all I know.
Zach is a good name for this 12-yr-old boy because the letter ‘Z’ has a whizzing, zingy character that matches Zach’s nature, which is full of energy and spontaneity.

He is slight of stature for his age and his features are delicately drawn. He celebrates his uniqueness rather than tries to hide it, so he dresses rather outrageously in colours and fashions that make him stand out from other boys even more. We don’t actually see Zach in the company of other boys, only with Bethany and Carys, so we never witness how he fares in the rough and tumble of school life.
He wears his hair very long, thick and brown and wavy.

He is extremely bright, at least in the subjects that interest him – though his kind of enquiring mind generally finds something of interest in every subject. Learning for him is a process of solving puzzles rather than merely absorbing facts. That’s epitomised in his love of archaeology, which presents countless puzzles to be solved from clues that the past has left buried. He is constantly on the lookout for connections and will follow a trail of quite reasonable ‘what ifs’ until it leads him to the very edge of reason and into the realms of fancy. He does this most famously as he works on his theory that Merlin must lie behind the things that are happening to the three children, postulating a series of actions that lead from Merlin through to the present day – a construction that Bethany promptly describes as ‘the house that Zach built’.

All the characters in the story are placed somewhere on a spiritual belief graph. The ‘x’ axis represents degree of belief, from extreme gullibity to total scepticism; and the ‘y’ axis represents the orthodoxy of belief, from biblical Christianity to a belief in magic. Zach would appear slap bang in the centre of such a graph, for he is open to believing anything that makes sense to him. Thus he pursues his Merlin theory not because he looks for magical explanations in everything but because it seems the most reasonable explanation to him. He regards ‘magical’ phenomena as happenings that have not had their laws discovered yet, but he is convinced that everything in creation does make sense if only we understood it!

He quickly made friends with Bethany when she arrived in Worcester. Her liveliness would appeal to him and her sense of fun – even her awful jokes – are a welcome antidote to his tendency to get too wrapped up in his reading and thinking. Zach can be a clown, often reducing Bethany to stitches, but rarely does he do this deliberately; it’s the way he is.

Zach has courage and self-confidence, the former largely the result of the latter. But at the story’s climax, when he is asked to do things not normally within his scope, he still responds bravely and without hesitation.

An eight-year-old reader said he wanted to be like Zach (when he’s a bit older) because Zach is ‘funny and adventurous’. I wouldn’t mind being like Zach either – when I’m a bit younger!

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