JACKIE by John Tammela


The Adventures of a Little Boy Trying to Grow Up
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In his debut childhood memoir, Tammela recalls his various escapades while growing up in late-1930s and early 1940s Niagara Falls, Canada.

In a prologue, Tammela sets some context for his memoir, in which he refers to himself in the third person as “Jackie.” His Finnish parents arrived in Canada in 1923 with 1-year-old son Timo, who died of illness at age 9, the same year Tammela was born. While Tammela dedicates this book to Timo, his memoir largely eschews sadness, with him also noting, “I hope you enjoy finding out more about how great being a kid in Niagara was in the 1930s and early 1940s.” His memoir then unspools largely through single-chapter episodic events, which include how Jackie was inspired by the 1937 British coronation to dress up as a child king, parading in front of his parents and three siblings. In another episode, he was afraid of his school nurse yet endured and even enjoyed a hospital stay. Elsewhere, he played “war games” and had snowball fights with pals and a memorable day “swimming, playing at being bullies, and finally, a crazy ride on a runaway wagon.” The memoir concludes with Tammela and his family about to move to Toronto when he is 10. Debut author Tammela’s memoir is quite entertaining, told through a child’s eye with folksy wit reminiscent of Jean Shepherd’s narration in A Christmas Story. “Armie and Jackie had zero desire for any such thing, but they were trapped,” he says, for example, about the pressure to perform for adults to earn treats at Halloween. He effectively captures the intensity of childhood play, reinforced by several hand-drawn black-and-white maps of his old neighborhood. Tammela’s memoir is for the most part tame enough to be shared with children, with his mother’s chiding of how he referred to some black musicians potentially serving as a teachable moment. Still, one scene of rather inappropriate touching by an older girl is left a bit sketchy and is rather disturbing. Overall, however, this is a delightful memoir. Let’s hope Tammela is considering a sequel set in Toronto.

Charming, humorously observed boyhood anecdotes.

Pub Date: March 25th, 2014
ISBN: 978-1909121461
Page count: 338pp
Publisher: Acorn Independent Press
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 2015


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