JACK'S BLACK BOOK by Jack Gantos


Age Range: 11 - 13
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Gantos trots out one disgusting and dangerous event after another to give his morose protagonist material for jokes, but the fun and games are edging over the top in this companion to Jack's New Power (1995). Jack wants to become a writer, but his family--unique but functioning in previous episodes and mere cartoons here--is united in a belief in his worthlessness. When the dog, BeauBeau III, breaks its neck and dies, Jack's sister, Betsy, is all wisecracks; on the trip to the vet, Jack's father suggests tying the dog to the car, like a dead deer, in case its bladder lets go (it's not the first time the dog's bodily functions are discussed). The parents are on vacation when Betsy, at home, sets a kitchen fire: "We were screaming and laughing, but . . . we just managed to get the baby out [of the bassinet] before the blanket burst into flames." Away from home, the situation's no better: School is a former prison; the volunteer librarian bolts down books and accuses the boy of stealing; the cafeteria serves creamed chicken gizzards weekly. Crammed in are descriptions of digging up the dog Jack buries (twice), spit, broken teeth, head lumps, and more. With a mean-spirited reliance on shock and cheap laughs, the book gets some tacked-on introspection at the end: "It was all about . . . what you wanted to become, and how much you love being yourself." (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 10th, 1997
ISBN: 0-374-33662-8
Page count: 165pp
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 1997


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