MR. JACK-IN-THE-BOX by Jan Spear


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A children’s story about an unruly jack-in-the-box who yearns for freedom.

Jack has been stuck in Grandmother’s attic ever since Julie, his original owner, grew up and abandoned him. Then one day, Julie’s son, Shane, discovers him. When Grandmother sees the toy talking back to him, she tells Shane that “this must be our little secret.” Later, when Shane leaves, she finds Jack running around the attic, challenging her for the run of the house. Instead, she shoves him back into the box, saying, “it’s for your own good.” When Shane returns, he takes the talking toy home, despite Grandmother’s warning about his “little stubborn streak.” Shane’s dad, Jim, accepts the toy, but Jack resists when Jim tries to put him away. That night, the family is appalled to see Jack skip out the dog door. Spying bright city lights, Jack sets off in search of adventure. He stops to sleep in a doghouse, whose resident, a dog named Butch, decides to look after him. When a couple captures and sells the talking toy to a performer named Mr. Magic, Jack refuses to dance or do tricks. Ashamed of his selfish behavior, Jack decides, if he ever gets home, to “be a good toy and obey the rules.” Soon, Butch and Jack embark upon a cross-country chase. Considering this unlikable main character neither solves his own problem nor learns very much along the way, readers may get more satisfaction from other, similar classic tales, such as The Adventures of Pinocchio or “The Gingerbread Man.” The simple illustrations are graphically strong. However, Jack, whose fixed expression seems pleasant on the full-color cover, looks a bit creepy in the first black-and-white illustration, which shows the arms and legs he’s sprouted. Overall, the images are simply too few and far between to break up the talky text.

An uneven, unoriginal tale for young readers.

Pub Date: April 9th, 2014
ISBN: 978-1495335815
Page count: 26pp
Publisher: CreateSpace
Program: Kirkus Indie
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