________________ CM . . . . Volume XVIII Number 20 . . . . January 27, 2012


Jackson Jones: The Tale of a Boy, a Troll, and a Rather Large Chicken.

Jenn Kelly. Illustrated by Ariane Elsammak.
Grand Rapids, MI: Zonderkidz (Distributed in Canada by HarperCollins Canada), 2011.
248 pp., hardcover, $13.25.
ISBN 978-0-310-72293-9.

Subject Headings:
Adventure and adventurers-Fiction.
Humorous stories.

Grades 4-7 / Ages 9-12.

Review by Crystal Sutherland.

**½ /4



Jackson’s eyes were getting dizzy from all the purple and green stripes spinning in front of him. The umbrella swished and popped as the wind pushed them along, faster and faster. Jackson swallowed and told himself not to look down.

He looked down.

He had to be at least thirty feet in the air! Should he let go?

Jackson treasures his journal, and he couldn’t be angrier than when he finds out his little brother has ruined it with his ‘illustrations’! Jackson’s mom just doesn’t understand why he’s so angry, and why he can’t just start another journal. She sends him outside to cool down while cleaning the pool. Neither of them could have predicted Jackson’s upcoming adventure.

      While Jackson is fending off an (imaginary?) dragon, a gust of wind carries him away and drops him at the top of the tallest tree you’ll ever see. It’s also the only tree with an elevator, debutante chickens, a golden toilet (you’ll never think of toilet paper in the same way again), 3486 squirrels, along with people, places and things you would likely not find in your own imagination. Through the book’s 89 short chapters, Jackson finds himself in strange, sometimes scary, situations, but luckily he has a good imagination and manages to find his way out of several sticky situations by working with, or tricking, the characters living in the tree.

      The short, uniquely-named chapters and illustrations make the book excellent for predicting exercises, and create natural breaks in the story. The story flows well with events happening quickly, and characters being revisited.

      The book starts with Jackson being very angry at his little brother. As punishment, Jackson is told to clean the pool, which is what begins his adventures during which he tries over and over to get out of the tree. When he does get out of the tree, he comes out in a field ‘in his neighbourhood’. The story felt incomplete without an apology to his mother and little brother and the issue of his ruined journal being resolved. The book gives the reader the feeling Jackson has been gone for a very long time, but there is no hint that his parents might be worried about him. The lack of resolution leaves the story feeling unfinished.

      Jackson occasionally talks about how ‘the Author’ writes the stories we live and brings the same characters back into our stories at different times in different roles. The final chapters of the book involve a ‘Prayer Tree’ where prayers, answered and unanswered, hang as leaves. Jackson explains to Stimple, a tree troll, that if he wants his prayer, previously rejected by the tree, answered, he will have to ‘believe again’ and that the Author sometimes answers prayers in ways that are unexpected. If the reader is not religious, this may be difficult to understand and difficult for a parent or teacher to explain. What started out as a fun, light read turned very serious and focussed on faith. Adults should be ready to deal with what could be complex and difficult questions coming from the last chapters.

      I recommend this book with some reservation: if the final chapters had not taken on a religious tone, and Jackson had resolved the conflict with his mother and little brother, the book would have been much more enjoyable for me. The religious aspect of the book, however, may make the book more appealing to others, and if it had been a constant throughout the book, it may not have seemed so jarring. It just did not fit in a book that was, for the most part, very light-hearted and full of slapstick humour. The book is a very good read, but the unresolved conflict with Jackson’s mother, his little brother, and the fact it is not clear whether Jackson makes it home safely, all cause the story to feel incomplete and leave the reader wondering what happened to the ending.

Recommended with reservations.

Crystal Sutherland is a MEd (Literacy) and MLIS graduate living in Halifax, NS and is solo-librarian for the Nova Scotia Advisory Council on the Status of Women’s special library.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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