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Jack: the Early Years of John F. Kennedy Paperback – Abridged, October 3, 2013

4.5 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 7 Up-Much has been written about the Kennedys, Jack in particular, so Cooper takes a different tack: she focuses on his early life, from his birth to his graduation from boarding school. In a lively style, she traces his entry into a prominent family, and shows the development of the family itself, as well as the relationships among its members. One that receives much attention is the competition between Jack and his older brother Joe, the heir apparent of their ambitious father, Joe Sr. The text is full of anecdotes and quotes from family members and intimates, so the book has a personal tone. Cooper also delves into the young Kennedy's personality and psyche, but masks many of the family's problems with softened explanations. Many black-and-white photos and reproductions of handwritten notes appear throughout. Source notes document the extensive research. A unique, highly readable choice for biography collections.
Carol Fazioli, formerly at The Brearley School, New York City
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

If you ask Ilene Cooper to name her favorite of the more than 30 books she has written, she doesn't miss a beat: Jack: The Early Years of John F. Kennedy. "It's the book I always wanted to write." That's because she's been a Kennedy watcher since she was a kid. Her longtime interest made it easier to write this remarkable book, which follows Kennedy's life in detail from birth through his high-school graduation, and then concludes with an extensive afterword that takes him through his wartime exploits and into his political career.

Why a book on just the early years? "There are several good biographies that cover his whole life," Cooper explains. "I wanted to focus on him as a child and teenager. He faced all kinds of pressure--ill health, an intense sibling relationship, mixed family messages, prejudice against Irish Catholics in America--but he was able to maintain his own identity. I also wanted to write about what it was like to be a child in this remarkable, yet highly pressurized, family. Kennedy never wrote or spoke much about his growing-up years, so I was excited to see what I could find out."

She found out plenty. Delving into Kennedy's life, Cooper was fascinated to discover a boyhood that was unique in its circumstances yet achingly familiar in its reflection of the ways children try to find themselves as they grow up.

To fill out her portrait, she visited places where Jack spent his formative years--his birthplace in Brookline, Massachusetts, now a national historic site; Hyannis, where the family spent summers; and Wallingford, Connecticut, where Kennedy went to boarding school at Choate. The travel, she says, helped her put herself in the place of the young Kennedy. It was her several visits to the John Fitzgerald Kennedy Library in Boston, however, that meant the most to her. She spent time at the library going through Kennedy family papers, including several privately published books. She also found JFK's report cards and letters he wrote as a schoolboy, some of which are published in Jack. The experience of working in the library--and touring the museum that is also part of the building--was particularly meaningful for Cooper, who had helped raised money for its construction after JFK's assassination.

The quality of the research in jack shows both in the way background history is seamlessly interwoven with biography and in the extensive source notes. Jack brings not just a boy to life but also a period in American history--the period between the two world wars.

At the Kennedy Library, Cooper also discovered a wealth of family photographs, a number of which illustrate Jack. She recalls having a great time choosing and placing them in the manuscript. She also remembers her frustration when she couldn't find a photo to fit a piece of text that seemed to call for art. She did, indeed, find some extraordinary pictures--of the Kennedy siblings; of Jack with his father and with his high-school buddies. There's even a shot of a smiling young Kennedy in bed recuperating from one of the many illness that plagued his childhood.

One particular photo stands out for Cooper, a picture of teenage Kennedy looking guardedly at his older brother, Joe, Jr., who is oblivious to Jack's attention. "The expression and body language show the complicated feelings Jack had for Joe, Jr.," she says. "Here was Jack, this child who grew up in an extremely competitive family, with a brother who was designated heir apparent: Joe, the good son; Jack, the irresponsible screwup--who actually grew up to be president. What kid can't relate to a story like that?" Stephanie Zvirin
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 10 and up
  • Grade Level: 5 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 1090 (What's this?)
  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Puffin Books; Abridged edition (October 3, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0147510317
  • ISBN-13: 978-0147510310
  • Product Dimensions: 7.2 x 0.5 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,161,063 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

By A. Hackworth on September 15, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This look at JFK's early years is very amazing. I loved the idea of exploring his early years in depth. As a school teacher, I realized that so many of the students we see as average students or pranksters have great potential! The book shows JFK's relationship with his older brother as being very strained. I didn't realize they were so competitive, but this book points out how competitive they really were. I loved this book! If you are a fan of the Kennedys and are looking for a glimpse into the young life of JFK, this book is the one.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In Jack: The Early Years of John F. Kennedy, Ilene Cooper brings us through the childhood of America’s 35th president. I felt as if I was with the Kennedy family from Jack’s birth to his presidency. Instead of just focusing on JFK, Ilene also introduces us with the other members of the Kennedy family, including his mother Rose Kennedy, his father Joseph Kennedy Sr., and Jack’s siblings; Joe Jr., Robert, Teddy, Rosemary, Kathleen, Eunice, Patricia, and Jean.
Jack: The Early Years of John F. Kennedy starts when Jack is a toddler that is suffering with scarlet fever, a bacterial illness that was common but deadly at the time. He is cured when his father pulls strings to land Jack a spot in Boston City Hospital, where he could receive special treatment for his scarlet fever. His father’s actions potentially saved JFK’s life, and presidency.
Ilene then continues to tell Jack’s childhood. We hear about his days at Devotion, an elementary school in Brookline, the life of the Kennedy family in New York, his days at Choate, and his experience at Harvard. Many of the Kennedy’s personal experiences were also shared. One story that I particularly enjoyed was where Rose and her children were picking berries on Cape Cod. Eunice, one of Jack’s sisters, was stung by a bee and let out a shriek. Jack, who was sitting on an anthill, then stood up. He was covered in ants, and was horrified.
If you are looking for a concise biography of John F. Kennedy, then Jack: The Early Years of John F. Kennedy is a must read for you. It is a great introduction into JFK’s life if you are looking into researching him. I highly recommend this book.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book captured the essence of JFK's early life and provided a cogent understanding of his youth, family life, and influences. I recommend this book as a good starting point before digging into more indepth research.
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