Kate Scott has a real knack for capturing the emotional rollercoaster of children’s thoughts that buzz away in their minds and that we might not see unless we look closely. In the brilliant ‘Giant,’ we met Anzo a boy who struggled to be heard amongst his family who are larger than life both physically and in personality. She allowed us to gain an insight into Anzo’s frustrations at being too ordinary for his family and not quite fitting in at school and his heart-breaking quest to be taller thinking that it will solve all his problems. In ‘Just Jack,’ Kate explores similar themes of needing to belong and fit in, in order to be happy. We meet Jack, who after moving house five times since his Dad left is desperately trying to make himself fit in rather than stand out in the crowd. Even if that means not being true to himself. Jack is exhausted by keeping up appearances and trying to do the right thing to be liked and not having a true friend. Whilst at the back of his mind is the constant worry that this new house and school will be temporary and another upheaval is around the corner. But when smart, funny and incredibly inventive Tyler comes along he throws Jack’s plans for blending in into disarray. Jack soon discover that being himself might just be the best route to happiness.
Kate uses a precise combination of heart and humour to deal with tough, emotional issues that children face in every day life. She offers a really thoughtful insight into the impact that parents behaviour has on a child’s emotional state. We see Jack’s Mum struggling to come to terms with her own feelings so much so that she doesn’t recognise the pain that the chaos and disruption is causing for Jack. However when Jack meets Tyler his life begins to change for the better despite his best efforts not to become involved in a genuine friendship. There are moments of pure joy and happiness for Jack as they bond together over Tyler’s invention of Skater-Flyer shoes but just like real life, the path to friendship doesn’t run smoothly and hiccups are thrown in their way. The characterisation is just marvellous, Kate creates the most endearing characters who you genuinely care for and become involved in their lives. Whilst Alex Gumm’s illustrations brilliantly capture the humour of this tale and the ups and downs of Jack and Tyler’s friendship, making it really accessible for younger readers. Funny, emotional and the perfect mix of joy and sadness, this story is an absolute gem of a story.
Thank you to Kate for sending me a copy of this wonderful book. ‘Just Jack,’ is available to buy online now and from any good bookshop.