HEADS OR TAILS by Jack Gantos


Stories from the Sixth Grade
Age Range: 11 - 13
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Though Jack has lived in nine houses and gone to five schools in his young life, three things have remained constant: a stable family, his father's inability to find a permanent job--and The Sound of Music, playing at the local drive-in since he moved to his Fort Lauderdale neighborhood. Gantos (Rotten Ralph) depicts him in a loosely knit series of incidents--tragic, comic, or both. When Jack copies his older sister's handwriting and his teacher accuses him of cheating, he vengefully shows her his diary, which also contains his pressed bug collection; he forgets to put his bike away and loses it in a hurricane; when his little brother points a finger-gun at a passing plane and it crashes, Jack takes quick action to save him from a lifetime of guilt; at his grandfather's sad funeral, he talks with a man who claims to have touched a UFO. Surrounded by a quirky cast (a relentlessly pessimistic older sister, a mother who makes the best of things, neighbors who remind Jack of the Stupids), Jack is an innocent with a sixth-grader's sensibility and a good heart, learning how quickly life's highs can become lows and vice versa. In the end, another job falls through and the family prepares to move; still, The Sound of Music finally gives way to Planet of the Apes. Funny moments, with an underlying poignancy. (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: June 1st, 1994
ISBN: 0-374-32909-5
Page count: 152pp
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 1994


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