Hand a copy of the graphic novel Mighty Jack to a young reader, stand back, and wait. You’re likely to hear something along the lines of this:
Quickly followed by something like this:
“Do you have the next book?! I need to find out what happens next!!”
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Mighty Jack is a reinterpretation of the the classic fairy tale of Jack and the Beanstalk. Young Jack struggles to look after his autistic little sister Maddie, and worries about his mother, who works two jobs in the summer to support them. When Jack and Maddie plant the strange seeds they buy at a market, the siblings and their new friend Lilly find themselves swept up in an incredible, exhilarating, and potentially deadly adventure filled with mystery, monsters, and even a mighty dragon.
Mighty Jack is a natural choice for so-called “reluctant readers” – children who, for whatever reason, profess to dislike reading. As a graphic novel it uses both illustrations and text to tell its story, making it attractive to children who struggle with, or are intimidated by, longer texts. My partner, upon seeing Mighty Jack on my desk, commented that he wished they’d had books like this available when he was a reluctant reader who found the titles on offer in his school library hopelessly uninteresting. The storyline itself, fast-paced and action-packed, will be attractive to young readers who, like my partner, feel that reading is “boring” or “lame”. Just look at the action in this one spread alone!
The appeal of graphic novels like Mighty Jack extends far beyond “reluctant readers”, though, and I would happily recommend it to any reader who enjoys adventure, fantasy (especially magic realism), fairy tales or exciting stories. The characters are likeable and interesting, the action is exciting, and although its based loosely on a classic fairy tales, the story is fresh and accessible even to readers who might not be familiar with European fairy tales.
The relationship between the characters is really something special. Jack is sometimes frustrated by his nonverbal sister, and he keenly feels weight of his responsibility as her older brother. But Jack obviously loves his Maddie, and is willing to do absolutely anything to keep her safe and happy. Their mother is overworked and sometimes absent, but she too loves her family, and her children in turn love her. This isn’t a perfect family, but it is a real one, bound together by real love, which is lovely to see in a middle grade title.
But the ending. Oh my goodness, the ending ! Talk about a cliff-hanger! I don’t want to spoil anything, but let me just say that young readers will be scrambling for the next book in the series. Thankfully they don’t have to wait too much longer – Mighty Jack and the Goblin King arrives September 5, 2017!
Hardcover, 208 pages
September 6, 2016 : First Second
Source: Raincoast Books