- Hardcover: 195 pages
- Publisher: Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc.; 1st edition (September 1, 1977)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0027255409
- ISBN-13: 978-0027255409
- Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 9 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,442,909 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Ordinary Jack: Being the First Part of The Bagthorpe Saga Hardcover – September 1, 1977
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Jack is just your average kid. In any other family, this would be a good thing. In Jack's family, it's just short of catastrophe. For you see, in the clan of the Bagthorpes, everyone's a genius. Jack's brother William has a ham radio, plays darts, enjoys the bongos, and often goes about searching for new exciting talents to add to his bag of tricks (or, as they say, strings to their bows). Rosie, Jack's younger sister, is an accomplished portrait painter and recently beat Jack at swimming. Living in such a conceited family might push anyone over the edge, but fortunately Jack has one person he can count on. His Uncle Parker married into the family and, though extraordinary in his own ways, he's just as normal as his nephew. Together, the two plan to make Jack into the kind of guy his siblings see as an equal. They're going to make him into a prophet. This may mean they'll have to employ dowsing rods, crystal balls, purple suits, bear costumes, and tarot cards, but in the end it'll all be worth it.
So many in-jokes, clever puns, and smart plot twists pop up in this book that you'll wonder how long these characters were wandering around author Helen Cresswell's head before she committed them to paper. Adults reading this book will recognize characters they've met in real life while children will read about them and find themselves wishing they belonged to families just this crazy. There's more than a little "Cheaper By the Dozen" in this book, except that each character you meet in "Ordinary Jack" comes with their own very particular personality. I can even pinpoint the moment I feel head over heels in love with the book. After a particularly disastrous birthday celebration that ends in the dining room catching on fire, Uncle Parker laments that, for him, the real loss of the evening was that he won't be able to get the little mottos out of the crackers now. Americans, unfamiliar with crackers, may need a bit of explanation about this Britishism. Those who know what they are, however, will be delighted by Uncle Parker's assertion that he collects them so that at parties he can "stop conversation dead" with one.
Will kids like the book? They won't be able to help but do so. Jack is completely sympathetic, dealing with his crazy relations by becoming even crazier than they are. I loved his self-esteem talks to his dog Zero and how the women in the family suddenly start to get involved in Yoga for no particular reason. Reading this book, you'll forget it was originally published in 1977, so contemporary are some of the terms and fads. You can only assume that had no-carb diets been around in the late 70s, the Bagthorpes would've been involved in those as well.
There are hundreds of children's books that center on crazy families. Heck, Polly Horvath's practically made her living off of the genre. But the best of all these, by far, is Helen Cresswell's really breathtaking Bagthorpe books. "Ordinary Jack" is one of the best children's books I've ever had the pleasure of reading. A brilliant book for any kid with a sense of humor and a yen for the bizarre.
sure that's the reason it's out of print. It's an *excellent*
book, one of the best I have ever read. The characters come
vividly alive, driving the storyline. The plot is deeply
involved, yet easy enough to follow. The prose is crisp and
colorful and draws the reader into the story.
The only problem is, the vocabulary is a little more advanced
than a lot of children these days can comfortably handle. If
the book were marketed for adults, it would be a bigger hit.
This is not to say that children cannot read this book. They
can, if they're avid readers with a good grasp on vocabulary.
I could have read it by sixth grade or so -- about the same
time I was ready to read Dickens and Shakespeare. I didn't
happen to run into it until somewhat later, however, and I can
confirm that it's a great book for adults.
This book will exceed your expectations and capture your
imagination. You'll read it in notime flat, because you won't
put it down for mundane things like meals.
The second book, Absolute Zero, is just as good. The others
in the series are also not bad, though the first two are easily
the best. This is the one to get first.