Wednesday, September 25, 2013
Jack Strong Takes a Stand
"Couch potatoes unite!"
In Jack Strong Takes a Stand, by Tommy Greenwald (of the Charlie Joe Jackson series), we see what happens when activities run (and ruin) a kid's life. Jack is a middle-school kid who is involved with tennis, baseball, cello, karate, and Chinese language lessons...plus all his school work! His parents just want him to be "well-rounded" for college, but Jack just wants to be a normal kid- video games and all. After missing a crucial social event, and not being able to take a breath from yet another activity, Jack decides he's had enough. He decides he will not leave his couch (besides bathroom and the occasional food breaks). As Jack sits, the community watches him take a stand.
This was a fun, funny read. It was mostly light-hearted, but made a good point. I reviewed Jason Odell Williams' book Personal Statement earlier. This was similar- kind of like Personal Statement for Jr. High...but Jack is a bit of the antithesis of most of the characters in the other book. The illustrations also add to the story- I loved the diagrams of the couch and Nana's Tongue Sandwich (it's not as dirty as it sounds).
Jack's narration is great- something I think many middle-grade boys will relate to (especially if they like a girl who's "so pretty it makes [their] eyebrows hurt." I read bits and pieces out loud to co-workers, because it was making me chuckle.
This book takes a good look at family: parents doing what they think is best for their kids; talking things out; reaching compromises; and pulling together in scary/tough times. As Jack's father puts it "never say anything bad about your family. We stick together through thick and thin." I like that it shows the family with flaws. The parents aren't perfect, Jack isn't perfect, but they love each other and worked together as a family.
Jack Strong made me grateful for parents who didn't make me do activities I didn't want to do...except basketball. I'm not athletic, and I was made to play basketball through Jr. High. That took some arguing, but I got to quit.
It's interesting to see how competitive things have gotten in children's futures: that your preschool determines your college/university; that over-involvement in every activity known to man will give you an edge. While yes, it will give you an edge, is it worth it to not let kids be kids?
I'd recommend this to both kids and parents. It's an easy read, and the character is likable enough that I think reluctant readers would enjoy it (and the Charlie Joe Jackson series). It does a good job of showing both sides of the situation, and does so in a funny way.
Jack Strong Takes a Stand is published by Roaring Brook Press (a division of Macmillan). ARC generously provided by the publisher.
Release Date: 09.24.2013