Just Jack

Authored by Kate Scott
Illustrated by Alexandra Gunn
Published by Piccadilly Press

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Just Jack is about a boy who keeps moving house and changing schools. As a consequence, Jack develops Sherlock code. ‘Following Sherlock code means getting two or three “safe friends” as a buffer so you can disappear into the background‘. It had worked well so far – why should School Six be any different?

Kate Scott’s previous story Giant is a great read, and once again, she has not disappointed with Just Jack. Both books look closely at the messiness of families and the misunderstandings that often occur due to a lack of communication. Referring to his absent father, Jack thinks ‘He seems to have used up all the patience he had when I was little. Or maybe I’d stopped being fun to be around‘. The reader sees the world through Jack’s eyes and can empathise with his survival strategy. Like a crab retreating into its shell, Jack tries to protect himself emotionally. But then he meets Tyler, an exuberant boy in his class who is full of inventive ideas and confidence. Together they develop a strong bond, which is then tested.

Just Jack will be my next read-aloud text in the junior years, but it would also work well as a Guided Reading text, or as a personal recommendation to a child who has moved house a lot. The story oozes empathy; the ending and the final illustration made me cry.