HAPPY JACK by Jacqueline J. Edgington


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In this debut novel, a lonely little boy travels through strange lands in an odyssey of self-discovery. 

Two years after Jack was abandoned by his parents at age 7, he is in yet another children’s home. Sad, angry, and isolated, Jack is bullied at school; his only friend is a battered toy dog named Ivanhoe; and he is tormented by dreams of a terrifying monster, sparked by the spiky branches of a looming monkey puzzle tree outside his bedroom window. One night, a cotton-stuffed monkey mysteriously appears, brings Ivanhoe to life, and tells Jack that “Satya, the dreamer of all dreams,” has the answer to his recurring nightmares. Joined by loyal Ivanhoe, now able to speak, as a supportive friend, Jack finds himself moving through shifting dreamscapes on a quest to reach the “quiet place,” where Satya dwells. The boy’s experiences in peculiar lands include a ride on the “Mindless Express,” where he nearly loses himself playing video games. Before Jack makes his empowering discovery of just who or what Satya is, he will learn not to run away from his feelings, to tame his stress-inducing “monkey mind,” to change a negative perspective by exercising forgiveness and kindness, and to trust himself to be his “own best friend.” Edgington, a yoga teacher, describes her engaging novel as an “adult allegory” “styled as a children’s book.” There is a great deal of imaginative storytelling on display here, and kids will undoubtedly enjoy Jack’s eventful journey and happy ending. Among the numerous odd characters that the hero encounters are “mountain lyings”—furry creatures that collect and frolic with all the lies people tell themselves and others—a discarded Christmas ornament who is sick of the holiday, and an ogre who embodies Jack’s worst fears. But this is fundamentally and unapologetically a self-help book whose child-centric plot exists solely as the framework for heartfelt lessons about self-realization and self-acceptance that should resonate with older, stressed-out readers despite the juvenile setting.

An inventive children’s fantasy whose earnest messages about cultivating emotional health through mindfulness target adults.

Pub Date: Nov. 20th, 2018
ISBN: 978-0-9980338-0-8
Page count: 140pp
Publisher: Bowker
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 2019


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