Grade 4-7-Readers of the "Jack Henry" series have followed Jack's adventures from fifth to eighth grade as his nomadic family moved from place to place. Now, in a prequel about his fourth-grade year, Gantos's alter ego arrives on a naval base in Cape Hatteras, NC. Jack is quick to acclimate to their new home, a camouflage-painted trailer in the middle of a swamp, and his optimism is rewarded when school starts and he finds himself head over heels in love with his new teacher, Miss Noelle. His unabashed adoration and efforts to please her are poignant and laugh-out-loud funny. The school principal assigns Jack the unwanted job of "Respect Detective," which turns out to be another name for a snitch. The local veterinarian operates on a backward-footed duck and persuades Jack to rehabilitate it in time for the local Pet Parade. The chapters are not plot driven but rather interrelated vignettes that queue up in Jack's memory during this school year. Slapstick is nicely balanced with reflection as the boy struggles to understand his father's moods or make sense of the death of a wheelchair-bound peer. The catchy format imitates a journal with lined-paper edges and excerpts of Jack's handwritten ramblings. A fun and refreshing read.
Vicki Reutter, Cazenovia High School, NY
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Gr. 4-7. The story of young Jack Henry continues in this prequel to the previous four books, which takes place when Jack is nine. His father has joined the navy and the family is moving to Cape Hatteras. Jack jumps off the pages as he falls in love with his teacher, referees a genius contest between his brother and his friend, and learns from his father how to brood. Some of the best scenes are between Jack and his dad. Both of them try to come to terms with who they are and what they believe about the world in general and themselves in particular--always cheered or egged on by Mrs. Henry, who sees her men's weakness and loves them anyway. Jack never sounds like a nine-year-old in the narrative, and the form sometimes oddly juxtaposes the sense of recent happenings with a long look back. That dichotomy is balanced by Gantos' wonderful writing, which is witty, smart, and unafraid to tackle tough topics. A worthy addition to the series. Ilene Cooper
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.