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Jack Plank Tells Tales Hardcover – May 1, 2007


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Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 - 7
  • Lexile Measure: 860L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Michael di Capua Books; First Edition edition (May 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0545004969
  • ISBN-13: 978-0545004961
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 6.4 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,845,704 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 2-6–When a pirate ship falls on hard times, Jack Plank is let go because he is not very good at plundering. Left in the Caribbean town of Saltwash, he has a bit of good luck to temper the bad. Eleven-year-old Nina, the daughter of the widow he boards with, offers to show him around the port town to find work. But at dinner each night, Jack reports to the other boarders his unsuccessful day. Trouble is, Jack is not well suited to be a farmer, baker, fortune-teller, fisherman, barber, goldsmith, actor, or musician, each for a different reason. For instance, he can't farm in the fields across the bridge because he once helped an ungrateful troll reposition itself under it. He can't take edibles from the sea because a shipmate once turned into an octopus and saved his life, and so on. These stories spin out, one each for eight days, at the end of which, the resourceful Nina comes up with the perfect job. Babbitt has a lively time with proper names (Leech, Snipe, Scudder, Old Miss Withers) and swiftly delineates character in short conversations at dinner. Jack's tallish stories make fresh use of familiar folklore motifs: a mummy seeking its missing hand, a mermaid who enchants a sailor, the fate of a feral child raised by seagulls. Babbitt's spare black line drawings introduce each chapter and give readers some indication of the person whose story Jack relates. Some of the tales, which beg to be read aloud, will leave listeners arguing about what really happened while others will make them grin. All in all, this is one treasure of a book.–Susan Hepler, formerly at Burgundy Farm Country Day School, Alexandria, VA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Jack Plank enjoys being a pirate, but plundering is not what it used to be, and Jack is let go. The good-hearted fellow takes a room in a boarding house run by Mrs. DelFresno, a widow with an 11-year-old daughter, Nina. Each evening at the communal dinner table, one of the diners suggests a possible occupation to Jack, who replies that he and Nina discussed that very idea earlier in the day as they walked about the Jamaican port town. However, he has ruled out that particular job, based on an experience that he proceeds to relate. The chapter "Not a Farmer" sets up the framework. Jack explains that he cannot work in the sugarcane fields, because it would involve crossing a bridge, which he never does for fear of meeting a troll. His mother's cousin's nephew once encountered a troll. Jack then obliges his fellow boarders by telling the tale in full. Written in a straightforward manner with touches of wry wit, Jack's stories unfold with the economy and assurance that readers expect of Babbitt. The book is reminiscent of The Devil's Storybook (1974) in its episodic structure, timeless telling, and fine black-and-white illustrations. While even recent college graduates may take comfort in Jack's efforts to find his calling, this rewarding, episodic story is highly recommended for reading aloud in elementary-school classrooms. Carolyn Phelan
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Jennifer Cameron-Smith on February 9, 2008
Format: Hardcover
What a wonderful book of short stories for children. I was attracted by the cover and borrowed the book to read for myself (after all, every middle-aged adult still houses elements of the child they once were, right?).

In this delightful book with its lovely drawings are a collection of stories told by Jack Plank, unemployed pirate. Each night, over dinner at Mrs DelFresno's boarding house Jack explains why his job seeking isn't going so well. I was especially engaged by the reasons why Jack can't be a farmer or a fisherman.

Fortunately, everything works out at the end. In the absence of young children (or grandchildren) of my own to read this book to, I'll settle for recommending it to others.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By E. R. Bird HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on April 1, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I was sitting at the children's reference desk the other day when a parent came up to me with a request. "I want a bedtime story to read to my daughter. Nothing cutesy or anything. Just some really nice tales to tell her before she goes to sleep. She's seven." Requests of this sort are a delight. You wait and hope for them. Not as many parents as I would like think to look for this kind of material, so when I get a request of this sort it's all I can do to keep from hopping up and down with glee. After one flash of inspiration I tried to sell the mom on Toys Go Out: Being the Adventures of a Knowledgeable Stingray, a Toughy Little Buffalo, and Someone Called Plastic by Emily Jenkins. No such luck. Not because shedidn 't like the book, mind you, but she'd already read it with her kid and wanted something new. We did some additional searching and I found her some nice books, but all the while I kept thinking to myself, "Why oh why oh whyhasn 't `Jack Plank' come out yet?" Because, you see, "Jack Plank Tells Tales," by the legendary Natalie Babbitt had not yet been published, but I'd seen a particularly enjoyable advanced reader's copy that had just charmed me. These days there's been a kind of upsurge in good bedtime reading thatdoesn't necessarily stink of either nostalgia or uber -cuteness. Finding the right balance can still be a challenge though. Maybe the time is ripe, then, for Natalie Babbitt to break her twenty-five years' worth of silence so as to bring us a book that feels like something your parents might have read to you when you were young.

Jack Plank's a lovely fellow, but the fact of the matter is that when it comes to pirating, he stinks.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Kate Coombs VINE VOICE on May 17, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Well, Jack Plank isn't actually on board his pirate ship anymore, being a victim of cost-cutting measures--i.e., he got laid off. He now lives at a rooming house, where he manages to tell a story at dinner every night, always in connection with his ongoing efforts to find a new career (aided and abetted by a child, of course). I thought Jack Sparrow had spoiled me for every other pirate imaginable, but then I met Jack Plank and fell in love all over again. Not that Jack is glamorously bizarre; instead he is as kind and gently funny as a favorite uncle. Kids will just plain like the stories, based on premises such as a shipmate who turns into something rather more aquatic than a wolf on full-moon nights or the little girl on a deserted island who's been raised by seagulls. The delivery is so relaxed that when you're finished, you find yourself thinking back through the book as it slowly dawns on you what an amazing collection of stories this really is--all at a level that can be appreciated as a read-aloud by 5-year-olds, 12-year-olds, and everything in between. As for grown-up readers, they can enjoy Natalie Babbitt's notoriously superb craftsmanship. For example, pay attention to the snippets of clever commentary from the dinner guests following each tale. It is said that the best practitioners in any field make their art seem effortless, and this non-aggressive, non-flashy piece of writing fits the bill. True, Jack Plank Tells Tales doesn't have the deep-sea philosophical implications of the classic Tuck Everlasting, but it doesn't need them: it surfs the waves of human nature with a humor and grace and affection often sadly missing from today's children's books.
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More About the Author

A gifted artist and writer, Natalie Babbitt's novels are inspired by a brilliance and imagination that is completely original. She began her career in 1966 with the publication of a picture book, The Forty-Ninth Magician, a collaboration with her husband, Samuel Fisher Babbitt. Her first novel, The Search for Delicious, established her gift for writing magical tales with a more profound meaning embedded within them. Kneeknock Rise earned her a Newbery Honor Medal, but it is Tuck Everlasting which has insured Babbitt's place in the history of children's literature. This modern classic, which has also been made recently into a major motion picture starring Alexis Bledel, William Hurt, and Sissy Spacek, asks an enduring and powerful question: If we could live forever, would we want to? Babbitt has written six more novels including The Eyes of the Amaryllis and Goody Hall-each one presenting her unique vision of an enchanted world. Her latest novel, Jack Plank Tells Tales, was published in Spring 2007. Natalie Babbitt lives in Providence, Rhode Island, and is a grandmother of three. When asked what she wants readers to remember about her books, she replied, 'the questions without answers.'

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