Hale, S., & Hale, D. (2010). Calamity Jack. New York: Bloomsbury.
Appetizer: This middle grade to young adult novel takes a closer look at Jack's past before he met Rapunzel in Rapunzel's Revenge. Always prone to troublemaking and crime, Jack is excellent at creating schemes and plots, but often has trouble foreseeing the consequences of his choices. Realizing his flaw, he decides to quit his schemes after one final trick that will allow his mother to live more comfortably.
After showing Jack's past, the story picks up soon after the end of Rapunzel's Revenge, when Jack and Rapunzel have decided to take a train back East to improve Jack's relationship with his mother in Shyport. On their trip, they discover that the East is under attack by giant ants and that the giants rule the area.
Kay, so I like the giant ants. I especially like that the characters make reference to the giant insects as "Them" over and over. It gave me flashbacks to my childhood when my dad showed me the movie Them.
Awesome, I know. So, I wonder which of the three Hales involved in creating this book is a fan of the movie? Is it all three? Or am I reading into this?
Moving on, as with the Rapunzel's Revenge, I was impressed by how the Hales blended together different fairy tales to share Jack's story. When many authors do this, it often feels forced, but in this case it feels more like an inside joke. A particularly good inside joke.
While I've always liked Jack as a character, I like him even more after hearing a story from his perspective. His sense of humor and his worries over whether he is good and redeemable make him relatable. Plus, readers who have crushes on classmates may be able to relate to his inability to properly express his fondness for Rapunzel.
"I think of myself as a criminal mastermind...with an unfortunate amount of bad luck. I was born to scheme." (pp. 4-5).
"I decided then to quit my scheming and be a good, honest boy...after one last caper...a big one, something that could end her [mom's] troubles for good" (p. 13).
"Long story short...my friend Rapunzel turned around the cesspool that was Gothel's Reach. I guess I helped some, and that last bean did a bit of good.
And now I'm coming home, Momma" (p. 39).
"Out West things were simpler--there's good and there's bad. I wasn't sure Rapunzel would understand how in the city everything is a whole lot trickier. What would she do if she found out I used to be one of the bad guys? What if I still am?"
To Go with the Meal:
As with Rapunzel's Revenge, I really liked the way race was presented throughout this graphic novel. A teacher could create a lesson about the relocation of Native American tribes around this story.
While the story also promotes visual literacy and touches on issues such as redemption, I think Calamity Jack is best as a fun read. There's a lot of humor and even a love triangle to entertain middle grade and young adult readers.
Tasty Rating: !!!!
To find out more about the Hales, Rapunzel and Jack, you can visit Shannon Hale's website, Nathan's blog or any of the participating bloggers' sites below:
Sally Apokedak, Reading is my Superpower, firesidemusings.blogspot.com, Through the Looking Glass Book Review , Booking Mama, Cafe of Dreams, Becky’s Book Reviews, The Hungry Readers, The Friendly Book Book, My Own Little Corner of the World, Book Blather, GreenBeanTeenQueen, Book Crumbs , Abby (the) Librarian, Dolce Bellezza, Homeschoolbuzz.com, The Book Cellar, Carrie’s YA Bookshelf, Bookshelf Monstrosity, Everyday Reading, Frenetic Reader, KidzBookBuzz.com, Maw Books