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The Story of the Jack O'Lantern Hardcover – July 27, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

PreSchool-Grade 2 In this poorly executed story that is based on Irish folktales, greedy Jack meets a strange man whom others say is the devil. Thinking only of his hunger, he gorges himself on fine foods after agreeing to repay the debt on the day he dies. Years later, on Halloween, the devil comes to collect the money and finds the man carving a pumpkin for soup on his doorstep. With murderous intent, the devil throws a burning coal at Jack, who catches it in the freshly carved pumpkin. Surviving the attack, he is condemned to wander the Earth after death. He carries his glowing pumpkin with him on his travels, and so is named Jack of the lantern. Dorman's Photoshop painted illustrations are appropriately creepy and extremely imaginative the devil's feet alone are enough to bring on a case of the shivers. The text, however, is awkward and confusing. With so many quality Halloween picture books available, most libraries can skip this one. Heather Acerro, Allen County Public Library, Fort Wayne, IN
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Through this tale about a nasty man named Jack, Tegen presents a vivid version of the origins of the current-day custom of placing carved, lighted pumpkins out at Halloween. The brief text tells how Jack makes a pact with a man believed to be the devil, escapes paying his due by catching a flaming coal tossed at him in a carved pumpkin, and is then condemned to eternally wandering the earth. (A short afterword explains that the story comes from Irish folktales.) Lavish, carefully composed, full-page illustrations with the look of oil paintings clearly depict the actions of the despicable characters against pleasingly detailed backgrounds with plenty of mouthwatering fruits and vegetables on hand. With Jack skulking around, the effect is a little creepy, but overall, with the smiling pumpkins, it is only slightly scary. Well suited for use in a pumpkin-decorating program—or any Halloween program. Pair with tales such as Very Scary, by Tony Johnston (1995). Preschool-Grade 1. --Randall Enos

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 4 - 8 years
  • Grade Level: Preschool - 3
  • Hardcover: 32 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins (July 27, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061430889
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061430886
  • Product Dimensions: 0.2 x 9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,074,284 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Jared Castle TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 9, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Looking to scare the bejesus out of preschoolers? Given the intended audience, Katherine Tegen's book -- a creepy blend of Irish folktale, Faust and Dickens -- stands out among other Halloween picture books for its unflinching retelling of "Deal with the Devil."

Jack, the titular character, is described and illustrated in a manner that wouldn't stretch the imagination to discover he's the lazy second-cousin of Scrooge. The fact that Jack makes a Faustian bargain with a "too friendly man" sporting cloven hooves for the price of a meal only proves that he's as short-sighted as he's despicable.

Tasked with drawing the devil, illustrator Brandon Dorman leaves no doubt that "too friendly man" is indeed Mephistopheles, with a widow's peak, sharply-pointed nose, red eyes and the aforementioned cloven hooves. The image of the devil hurling a burning coal into Jack's stolen pumpkin sent a shiver through my sons (ages 8 and 7). Dorman's illustrations capture the right mood; he uses both facing pages for each image, filling the layers and edges with detail. My sons scoured each page and pointed out Jack climbing over a fence ("There he is!") in the background of one of the last pages.

The epilogue explains that the Irish customs and folklore reached America in the 1800s. No doubt children of that generation were steeled for spooky tales. Grimms' Fairy Tales houses characters as equally spine-chilling as what is found in this book. However, today's generation of parents will likely be taken aback by the lack of positive characters and an unsettling ending, especially for preschool readers.

My sons asked several questions when we reached the end of the book:

"Is Jack a zombie?"
"Does he hide outside on Halloween?
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By anonymous on October 23, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I have heard several really interesting stories about a man named Jack who tricked the Devil. I expected some things to be altered (like making him a glutton rather than a drunk, which this author did) to make the story more children friendly. What I did not expect was that they author would make Jack stupid and take out the fact that he tricked the Devil. All of the stories have that in common. He outsmarts the devil, and then can't gain entry into Hell (and Heaven obviously doesn't want him). In this version, he is just lazy and dumb, and the Devil tricks him. I would agree with other reviewers that this book isn't appropriate for very young children. I bought it thinking that I could use it for English-language learners who are about 10 years old. The story, however, is so simple and bland (for lack of a better word) that it is not usable for that purpose either. Basically, no one is going to enjoy this book. (Also, another thing that bothered me is that it says that we carve pumpkins to remember Jack, but then, on the next page, it says that jack-o-lanterns were originally carved to ward off evil spirits. These two things cannot both be true, which is annoying). Okay, my complaints are done. I hope that this was helpful to anyone thinking about buying this book.
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By Ramona Moyer on October 24, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Started nap time books so always looking for good books. Tried this seasonal book and was not disappointed. The four year old asked for it to be read again. It was a learning book about stay away from bad people. Also a history lesson on how the Jack O' Lantern came to be. We will enjoy seeing this Halloween all the pumpkins made into Jack O' Lanterns and know how his face came to be.
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