Friday, August 17, 2007

Jack Plank Tells Tales by Natalie Babbitt

I recommend this book for: grade 4-5, reluctant readers, teachers or parents in need of a good read-aloud
My most recent foray into the juvenile department was rather nice. Jack Plank used to be a pirate, but he didn't really have the heart for pillaging, so his shipmates left him ashore in the Caribbean with no hard feelings. Jack finds a place to board with a widow and her 11 year old daughter, Nina, who helps Jack every day for a week in trying to find a suitable job. Each day at dinner the various occupants of the boarding house and friends suggest a new job to Jack, but he has a fantastic story to explain why none of them will work for him. Poor Jack is afraid he'll have to go back to sea, until his new friends come up with the perfect job and all ends happily. Jack's stories are fun twists on traditional tales - one shipmate transforms under the full moon, but not into a wolf, while another buys a mummy's hand and gets haunted by the ghost of the dead king, and still another plays music so beautiful that the wildlife is enchanted - the wildlife being a huge family of crocodiles!
I can imagine that finding the right audience for this book might be a problem. Kids who want pirate tales may grow bored, as there's very little actual piracy that goes on in the stories, and the pirates themselves are a rather unusual lot. However, this would be great for reluctant readers, as each chapter is a short story unto itself, more like beginning readers in structure than most chapter books. And this would be a great read-aloud, with plenty of natural stopping places and short episodes. Over all, not an A+, but definitely enjoyable.

1 comment:

Himitsu said...

You have to stop recommending books so well that I want to read them when they're all checked out. T-T