Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Through the Medicine Cabinet

Greenburg, Dan. Through the Medicine Cabinet. Illustrated by Jack E. Davis. Grosset and Dunlap, 1996. 57 pages. $4.99. ISBN 9780448412627.


In the second installment of The Zack Files series, ten year-old Zack discovers a portal into another universe in the back of his medicine cabinet! While rummaging in the medicine cabinet for his lost retainer (does that make it nine or ten lost this year?), Zack sees a face peeking out at him from the back of the cabinet, as though through a window. Even stranger is that this face looks exactly like him! The boys have a brief tussle, resulting in Zack being pulled through the portal. Once on the other side, he meets the boy, Zeke. Instead of New York, where Zack lives, Zeke lives in Newer York. Zeke informs Zack that today is Opening Day (and not for the Yankees!); Opening Day is a day when residents of Newer York are warned to stay away from the portals because they are open, temporarily. Zeke makes a pass through the portal into Zack’s world, and Zack is left to his own devices to discover how to get back himself---the portal seems locked down! Just when time is really running out and the portals are about to close up for another thirty years, Zach and Zeke swap back into their own worlds.

Curriculum Connections:

This transitional fiction book has the perfect first chapter: a “hook” that really makes the reader want to turn the page. We learn right away that Zack is a funny narrator and that he has a problem with chronically losing his retainer. But the chapter concludes this way: “The back of the medicine cabinet opened. And there, staring right in my face, was a boy who looked almost exactly like me!” How could a reader leave Zack at that critical discovery point?

Personal Reflections:

Zack has an engaging and accessible style that is similar to the direct and humorous style of books like the Big Nate series and the popular Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, but with a science fiction twist.


Age/Interest Range:



Humor, Science Fiction, Fantasy


The offbeat sense of humor in The Zack Files series may appeal to fans of Jon Sciezcka’s Time Warp Trio series or the novels of Daniel Pinkwater.

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