Thursday, May 20, 2010

Calamity Jack

Calamity Jack written and illustrated by Shannon and Dean Hale
illustrated by Nathan Hale
(Bloomsbury Kids) 2010
Source: Graham Public Library

What would happen if a DC Comic and a tall tale collided and became one? You would get Calamity Jack and become instantly cool with your upper elementary and middle school students.

It is a graphic novel retelling of Jack and the Beanstalk. Jack is a self proclaimed criminal mastermind who seems to run into bad luck at every turn. His scheming has troubled his mother who runs a local bakery.  Jack decides to become honest, but only after one last scheme. The plan is to rob Blunderboar, a crooked giant in size and local business. Blunderboar keeps his valuables in a floating penthouse so Jack must find a way to access the loot.  He trades his deceased father's jacket for some magic beans. Jack's plan doesn't quite work and causes enough destruction that he must escape out west to avoid a fatal fate at the hands of Blunderboar. Armed with nothing more than a golden goose that isn't laying eggs, Jack meets up with Rapunzel who is a combination of Jessie the Cowgirl and Wonder Woman. Now they must head back to Jack's hometown to rescue his imprisoned mother and save the city.

Do you work with a middle school student who doesn't like to read? I wouldn't be surprised to see Calamity Jack change that. Shannon and Dean Hale along with illustrator Nathan Hale (no relation) have taken a clever idea (tall tale superheroes) and created a page turning thrill ride. My oldest daughter read it three times after I checked it out of the library. Put this book in the hands of a reluctant reader. This is the part of the review where I usually talk about how I would use it in the classroom. Instead, click on this link to see Peter Gutierrez's excellent teacher guide.

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