Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Book Review: Calamity Jack

Calamity Jack by Shannon and Dean Hale, illustrated by Nathan Hale. Grades 5+. Bloomsbury, January 2010. Reviewed from ARC provided by publisher for the Kidz Book Buzz Tour.

So, y'all know how much I loved Rapunzel's Revenge, right?

Yeah, I loved Calamity Jack, too.

Jack first appeared in Rapunzel's story, but here we get the full scoop on his sordid past. See, Jack grew up in the city and he hatched his first scheme when he was a toddler. He's an expert at hustling people out of their money and he'd surely be rich if it wasn't for the bad luck that seems to follow him wherever he goes. Every scheme he hatches comes with unforeseen consequences. Which is how Jack became an outlaw in his home town.

Now, Jack's met Rapunzel and he's determined to return home and make things right. But when he arrives at a city much changed from the home he knew. Terrible ant people are waging war on the city and the only protection comes from the shady giant Blunderboar. Jack knows something fishy is going on, but how can he show the townspeople what's really happening?

The story is a great blend of traditional fairy tale elements and an original plot. The story of Jack and his beanstalk serves as the back story that fleshes out Jack's character. By the time he's stealing the golden goose, the reader has a good idea of who he is and what his motivations are. He's a good guy who's done bad things and wants to make it right.

Calamity Jack's got the same sassy, funny writing that made Rapunzel's Revenge such fun and the illustrations are just as eye-catching. I was a little afraid that the kick-butt heroine I so loved in Rapunzel's Revenge would be lost in a book about Jack, but it wasn't so. Rapunzel's back and she's just as feisty as ever. We also meet some new and interesting characters like Jack's pixie friend Prudence and a newspaper man who's obsessed with gadgets.

You don't have to have read Rapunzel's Revenge to enjoy this story (but why wouldn't you want to read it?). Fairy tale retellings are hot and these books very much remind me of Fables for the younger set.

And do check out the rest of the blog tour:

Sally Apokedak, Reading is My Superpower, Fireside Musings, Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews, Booking Mama, Cafe of Dreams, Becky's Book Reviews, The Hungry Readers, The Friendly Book Nook, My Own Little Corner of the World, Book Blather, GreenBeanTeenQueen, Book Crumbs, Dolce Bellezza, HomeschoolBuzz.com, The Book Cellar, Carrie's YA Bookshelf, A Bookshelf Monstrosity, Everyday Reading, Frenetic Reader, and KidzBookBuzz.com.