Updated: Apr 27, 2018
BooksforTopics Reading for Pleasure Recommendations
Book Title: Just Jack
Author: Kate Scott (illustrated by Alex Gunn)
Publisher: Piccadilly Press
Publication Date: April 2018
Most Suitable For: Years 3-6
Just Jack is a modern and entertaining story about losing the courage to be yourself and then finding it again. Covering themes that feel very relevant to pupils throughout KS2, this is a highly recommended read that is well suited to Years 3, 4 and 5 and also to reluctant readers in older classes.
Since Jack’s dad moved out, Jack and his mum have moved house lots of times. This means that Jack has had to start at new schools lots of times too. In fact, Jack is becoming so used to starting afresh that he has become an expert at blending into new groups, even when it means pretending to be someone he is not. Jack calls his survival strategy ‘Sherlock Code’, and when he starts at new school number 6, he knows that Sherlock Code will be the key to settling in quickly. All he needs to do is watch how the other children behave and listen to what interests them, and then he can pretend to be just like them.
The problem when Jack tries this strategy with the first two pupils he meets at school number six is that Jack knows really he is not just like them and his survival strategy begins to fall apart when he meets another boy called Tyler. Tyler is clever, inventive and unique and is completely unafraid of staying true to himself. As Jack begins hanging around more and more with Tyler, Jack starts to realise that instead of pretending to be just like everybody else, it is time to enjoy being just Jack.
What I love about Kate Scott’s writing style is that the characters are so relatable. The voice of Jack narrating the story is really authentic and the result is that the reader is carried along on an empathetic journey with Jack, rooting for him every step of the way. As well as the main theme of being true to oneself, the book also explores the interesting topics of entrepreneurialism and its ethics, parental separation and how friendships are formed. As a fellow primary teacher I also really enjoyed the character of Mr Tull, who (despite his penchant for endless worksheets) demonstrates the mighty impact of teachers who take it upon themselves to notice what’s going on with their pupils and offer caring support and advice, just as thousands of teachers do every single day.
Just Jack is a highly enjoyable read that I found hard to put down due to its convincing child voice, relatable characters and relevant themes.