The Book Chook – Great Blogger for Literature & Literacy

The Book Chook – Great Blogger for Literature & Literacy

I AM JACK by Susanne Gervay, Monkey Baa Theatre for Young People,Seymour Centre, Tim McGarry as JACK,endorsed by Room to Read,Alannah & Madeline Founaton, Life Eduation Autralia

Susan Stephenson, The Book Chook
Blogging about kids’ literature and literacy
Editor of Literacy Lava

 

The Book Chook 

 

Book Reviews, I am Jack, and Super Jack

Posted: 09 Jan 2010 04:18 PM PST

One of my favourite books ever is I am Jack, by Susanne Gervay (Angus and Robertson/Harper Collins Publishers 2000). A couple of months ago, I was lucky enough to see I am Jack performed on stage in Brisbane (Queensland, Australia), and what a treat that was! In my post about it, I described the performance as having “lots of opportunities for laughter, but also moments when 150 children sat transfixed and made not a sound.”Next is humour. Does that seem to conflict with such a serious theme? Not at all with Gervay’s deft handling. There is drama, tension, conflict AND humour as we get to know Jack and his family.

That brings me to character – Gervay’s characters are thoroughly believable. I’m sure I know Nanna – enjoys a chat, a little hard-of-hearing, loves to score a bargain or ten at the shops – and all the other characters are just as real. Even when the bully George made me furious on Jack’s behalf, he was always three dimensional, not a stereotype.

Above all though, as with many great books, I think I am Jack

 shines because of its authentic voice. From the first lines, we hear the narrator as a young boy. We experience his anguish; share his corny jokes one minute and pant with him the next as he runs to escape the bullies. Jack grows, changes, learns lots about who he is and what is important to him during the book, and through him, so do we.

Super Jack (Angus and Robertson/Harper Collin 2003) continues with the great characters we met in I am Jack. This time we experience the highs and lows of Jack’s life against the backdrop of a holiday on the Gold Coast. Super Jack

 introduces a new problem for Jack in the form of Leo, his sort-of-step-dad Rob’s son. Jack also must cope with worries about Nanna’s health, his growing affection for Anna, and Rob moving in. He’s such a great kid though, you just know he’ll sort it out in the end!

Cathy Wilcox’s illustrations are only occasional in what is really a chapter book. We find them most often as chapter headers. But there are also some quirky, comic-style sketches that contribute an extra visual element to Gervay’s word pictures.

Both I am Jack, and Super Jack are perfect for kids 8-12. They deal with serious issues in a light-hearted way, but above all, are great stories from a superb story teller. If you’d like to take a peek inside, the Harper Collins site offered me the option of letting you browse inside the book via my blog in the widget below.

 

Susanne Gervay’s own website adds real value to the books. You can check out a cute trailer of I am Jack, link to find Monkey Baa stage show performances, get more information about bullying, and discover a ton of useful literacy activities tied to the books. The great news here too, is that US readers can share the fun – it’s published in the USA by Tricycle Press, an imprint of Random House USA, and has been translated into Korean, Bahasa and Vietnamese.

It’s difficult to pinpoint why I like the novel, I am Jack

, so much. I guess it’s a combination of factors. Firstly must come its theme – bullying. I loathe the consequences of bullying and applaud Gervay for writing a book that shows victims of bullying that they’re not alone in that scary, lonely place. Her honesty and matter-of-factness make this book accessible to kids who may not be able to speak up for themselves.

 

 

I'm a writer committed to kids in particular. Adults are good too. Want to bring hope through story to my readers. Awarded an Order of Australia, Lady Cutler Award and a Lifetime International Award for Literacy for my body of work, spreading literacy is really important. I'm head of SCBWI Australia East & New Zealand, patron of Monkey Baa Theatre, Ambassador for the Premier's Reading Challenge, Writer Ambassador for Room to Read ... among other roles. I also love heritage and adapting to enhance the lives of people today, which is why I restored The Hughenden Hotel 1870s and The Residences Centennial Park - the only homes in the parklands which are open now for accommodation, events and lots of nature.

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