First Second / Raincoast Books
By Ben Hatke
Synopsis from Raincoast Books:
Jack might be the only kid in the world who’s dreading summer. But he’s got a good reason: Summer is when his single mom takes a second job and leaves him at home to watch his autistic kid sister, Maddy. It’s a lot of responsibility, and it’s boring, too, because Maddy doesn’t talk. Ever. But then, one day, she does talk. Maddy tells Jack in no uncertain terms to trade their mom’s car for a box of magic beans. It’s the best mistake Jack has ever made. The little garden behind his house is about to become home to tiny onion babies running amok, dangerous biting cabbages, and, in a fiery cliff-hanger at the end of this first volume: a dragon.
Most kids are aware of Jack and the BeanStalk as a fairytale told when they were little. However, it’s a concept that plays out nicely for older kids too and that’s where you end up with Mighty Jack. This graphic novel touches on some of the issues glided over within the fairytale. That’s Jack’s life at home, dealing with common adolescent issues of family responsibility and fitting in. His tale is compounded with his single mom working two jobs to support the family and his slightly younger autistic sister who needs constant care and supervision.
The extreme bean plant you know from fairytale has been supercharged in Mighty Jack as a collection of produce with a bad attitude. There’s pumpkins with bite (as in teeth), blueberry bombs, and even weeds with hands that toss dirt balls. It may put you off planting anything from seed in your garden but the imaginative plants will keep you turning pages. Even though Jack knows the garden is dangerous, it has created a connection between him and his sister Maddy. She’s more responsive, excited about spending time with the plants and has even said a few words to Jack.
Might Jack is a story of struggles. There’s Jack’s family life where he has to be more grown-up and take additional responsibility at home and with his sister as his mom is working. There’s the struggle between his love for his sister and making her happy versus keeping her safe. And ultimate the struggle between the good that is Jack and his companion Lilly and the evil that seems to be part of the garden, something that Jack can’t talk to adults about because it is so unreal.
I like that the characters are more diverse, something I’ve found more in graphic novels. This style of storytelling lends itself beautifully in conveying the action, fear and awe behind what grows in the garden. The story’s cliffhanger ending already has my kids (and myself) wanting more.
You can get an inside peek to this book in the following video review, published on our Youtube channel every Wednesday:
You can find a copy of Mighty Jack from Raincoast Books or your local bookstore. Visit our Kid’s Books section for other great book recommendations.