Fans of the Frog & Toad series by Arnold Lobel and the Elephant & Piggie series by Mo Willems will love Hi Jack! (Viking, 2019), the first book in the Jack Book series written by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Greg Pizzoli. While Hi Jack! is not the recipient of any awards, it will be a winner with new readers!
Meet Jack (a mischievous rabbit), the Lady (an elderly white woman), and Rex (a farm dog) in this laugh-out-loud early reader. When Jack meets the Lady, he promptly steals her purse so he can get her lipstick (Bad Jack!). Jack isn’t all bad. Let’s just say that the temptation of lipstick, a white dog, and the Lady’s clean, white walls are too much for him to resist!
New Readers Will Love Hi Jack!
This series is great for new readers, as well as reluctant readers. The total word count is low (only 90 words), sentences are short, and the font is big and easy to read. Barnett expertly uses familiar word families (Jack, back, snack) and repetition (“He loves to eat snacks. How’s that snack, Jack?”) to reinforce reading confidence. The repetition also adds humor to the storyline as Jack continually gets in trouble (“Bad Jack! Jack give that back!”), and the hilarious antics of the ill-behaved Jack will engage even the most reluctant reader! Hi Jack! is also a very fun read-a-loud book!
What to Love About Jack!
Here are a few reasons why this series is a good choice:
- Again, the word count is low, sentences are short, with only a few words per page, and the font is large and easy to read.
- The book is divided into three simple chapters (each named after a character), starting with Jack. Each chapter presents a separate, complete story that builds on the last.
- Key facts about each character are provided at the beginning of their chapter. For example, in Chapter 1 (“Jack”), the reader learns that Jack lives in a treehouse and likes snacks.
- The illustrations are simple and uncluttered, yet Jack’s facial expressions tell a lot of the story. The illustrations also present clues about what is going to happen next (such as Rex’s white fur, the Lady’s white walls) or who might have been bad (Rex with pink, heart-shaped lips).
- Pizzoli provides easy to follow instructions on how to draw each character (yes, there might be some additional lipstick involved – Bad Jack!).
Some might say…
Critics will complain that the book sends mixed messages to young readers as Jack is continually being naughty with little or no consequences. It’s true that Jack is not the best of role models. However, if the goal is getting kids to love reading, as opposed to some pedagogical purpose, Hi Jack! hits the mark. Moreover, Jack’s behavior might be used as an opportunity to have conversations about choices and kind behavior.
How to make the most of Hi Jack!
First of all, with its snappy and rhythmic text, Hi Jack! is a fun read-a-loud book. It is also a great book for story mapping. Depending on the individual students’ level, it could be used to help students understand how stories have a beginning, middle, and end (either by writing or drawing each part) or for more advanced students, to consider and identify all the elements of a narrative text.
What else do you want to read?
|Ready for some more quirky, funny series for early readers?
Check out Click, Clack, Moo: Cows that Type (Simon & Schuster, 2000) written by Doreen Cronin and illustrated by Betsy Lewin. When the cows find an old typewriter in the barn, the farmer can’t take the constant Click, Clack, Moo. But it only gets worse when the cows start sending the farmer demand letters. Barnyard v. Farmer, who will win?
Also check out Duck, Duck, Porcupine! (Bloomsbury, 2016) by Salina Yoon. Follow the adventures of Big Duck, Little Duck, and Porcupine as they have a picnic, a birthday party, and a camping trip. If only Big Duck would listen to Little Duck every once and awhile.