Jack: The Early Years of John F. Kennedy


We all know him as our 35th president, but who was John F. Kennedy before he took political office? Ilene Cooper effortlessly takes us through the young life of one of our most influential leaders, for a reading experience you’ll not soon forget.

Drawing on family letters, anecdotes, recollections,and biography, Ilene Cooper has written a riveting account of John F. Kennedy’s early years from birth to prep school graduation, all set against the colorful background of the Kennedy...

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Jack: The Early Years of John F. Kennedy

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We all know him as our 35th president, but who was John F. Kennedy before he took political office? Ilene Cooper effortlessly takes us through the young life of one of our most influential leaders, for a reading experience you’ll not soon forget.

Drawing on family letters, anecdotes, recollections,and biography, Ilene Cooper has written a riveting account of John F. Kennedy’s early years from birth to prep school graduation, all set against the colorful background of the Kennedy family and their wildly successful pursuit of the American dream. Completely reformatted, this paperback edition is the perfect companion to adult biographies on JFK, and just right for young historians looking to discover the boy behind the man.

A description of the childhood and youth of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the thirty-fifth president of the United States.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"The text is full of anecdotes and quotes from family members and intimates, so the book has a personal tone. . .  A unique, highly readable choice for biography collections."—School Library Journal

"The quality of the research in Jack shows both in the way background history is seamlessly interwoven with biography and in the extensive source notes . . . "—Booklist

Publishers Weekly
Cooper (The Dead Sea Scrolls) offers an engaging overview of the mischievous and often sickly boy who grew up to become president. Readers may be surprised by how un-presidential Jack behaved in his youth. For though Jack demonstrated strong creative and intellectual leanings, he struggled with rules, punctuality and order-struggles which cost him many meals in his strict Irish Catholic family and which nearly led to expulsion at his prestigious boarding school, Choate. Joe Sr., the head of the close-knit Kennedy clan "wanted winners in the house, not losers," Cooper asserts, as she effectively establishes the man's ambitions for himself and his sons. She speculates that Jack exaggerated some of his impish traits because he could never measure up to his seemingly perfect elder brother, Joe Jr., while also highlighting Jack's charm through family stories and occasionally in his own words, such as his well argued "A Plea for a raise" in allowance, addressed to his father. The author also discusses Jack's myriad health problems, which began with life-threatening scarlet fever at age two and plagued him throughout his life. Primary sources and photographs help capture the high pressured and privileged Kennedy lifestyle and an effective afterword chronicles Jack's rapid ascent in politics. Though this leader conjures the myth of Camelot for adults, young readers may well find the reality of Jack's boyish wiles and struggles nearly as appealing. Ages 10-14. (Jan.)
Cooper tracks the life of the late President Kennedy from birth through high school, highlighting factual events and family dynamics. Among the former are descriptions of Jack's sickly childhood, including a three-month hospitalization for scarlet fever at age two, and his early public schooling and attendance at secular boarding schools, where students of his Catholic faith were few. Teens might enjoy learning that although Jack's intelligence was evident, his overall academic performance was lackluster and his rooms were a mess. His family's values centered on unity, religious faith, and winning. Intellectual curiosity was also fostered; a bulletin board displayed discussion topics to be addressed at dinner. Of the nine Kennedy children, Jack was the second son. Cooper suggests that his parents' theory of child raising-concentrate on the eldest so that he will model for the rest-had a strong impact on Jack. Attention was showered on Joe, the firstborn, and by comparison, Jack appeared to have felt neglected and undervalued. Joe bullied Jack. The boys developed as polar opposites-Joe responsible and hardheaded, Jack elfin and witty. A psychologist who evaluated Jack as a teenager wrote, "He withdraws from the race [with Joe] in order to convince himself that he is not trying." Intelligent design and numerous fabulous, well-placed, and well-captioned black-and-white photographs enrich Cooper's clear prose. Older teens might find her style too young, but serious readers of any age will appreciate the wealth of information assembled. This sensitive, well-researched biography will enhance any collection. Index. Biblio. Source Notes. VOYA Codes: 4Q 4P M J S (Better than most, marred only byoccasional lapses; Broad general YA appeal; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2003, Dutton, 160p, Heslin
Children's Literature
This book is an excellent choice for readers who want to learn more about President John F. Kennedy. Ilene Cooper, the author, focuses mainly on Kennedy's childhood, with particular emphasis on his relationship with Joe, Jr., his older brother. Cooper writes with a clarity that allows the reader to observe Jack and to get to know him and feel his frustrations as he emerges from the travails of sibling rivalry. The many incidents described about Kennedy's life make him an accessible, engaging personality and hold the reader's attention. Cooper also goes beyond Jack's experiences and discusses the struggles of his mother running a large household of nine children, his father's struggle against discrimination in America and even the obstacles overcome by his Irish grandparents who immigrated when there was a potato famine. There are many beautiful photographs and the book is brimming with interesting quotes of Jack expressing his frustrations of always being the second son. Cooper presents the young president as rebellious and troubled by a long history of childhood illnesses. Her portrayal is a different but no less engaging image than the better known "Camelot" image of his more public face as president. 2003, Dutton Children's Books,
— Rihoko Ueno
School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up-Much has been written about the Kennedys, Jack in particular, so Cooper takes a different tack: she focuses on his early life, from his birth to his graduation from boarding school. In a lively style, she traces his entry into a prominent family, and shows the development of the family itself, as well as the relationships among its members. One that receives much attention is the competition between Jack and his older brother Joe, the heir apparent of their ambitious father, Joe Sr. The text is full of anecdotes and quotes from family members and intimates, so the book has a personal tone. Cooper also delves into the young Kennedy's personality and psyche, but masks many of the family's problems with softened explanations. Many black-and-white photos and reproductions of handwritten notes appear throughout. Source notes document the extensive research. A unique, highly readable choice for biography collections.-Carol Fazioli, formerly at The Brearley School, New York City Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
"Jack Kennedy's life was a gift, but one that was wrapped with many strings." John F. Kennedy was sickly, he was a dreamer, and he was a second son. It was Joe, his older brother, who was groomed to be the first Catholic president of the US. Joe was the responsible one, the one good at school, the one most likely to live his father's dream. Jack was a practical joker, a lackadaisical student, a "boy who doesn't get things done." Cooper (Jewish Holidays All Year Round, not reviewed, etc.) succeeds at portraying Jack as an ordinary boy with concerns that many kids have: conflicts with an older brother, illnesses, trouble in school, competition for parents' attention, and, finally, finding his way in life. Unfortunately, when he finally does begin to buckle down and find his way, the story is over, and the more famous events of Kennedy's later years are sketched in the afterword. Like all good biographies, the subject is the lens through which readers learn about his times. Cooper covers much history here: the Irish potato famine, the arrival of the Fitzgerald and Kennedy families on filthy "coffin ships," the prejudice against Irish Catholics, the Roaring Twenties, and the Great Depression. This is dependable nonfiction writing. Clear prose, numerous photographs, thorough source notes, and a solid bibliography make this a fine biography for young readers and a worthwhile addition to biography collections. (Nonfiction. 10-14)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780147510310
  • Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
  • Publication date: 10/3/2013
  • Edition description: Abridged
  • Pages: 176
  • Sales rank: 975,551
  • Age range: 10 years
  • Lexile: 1090L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 7.06 (w) x 8.98 (h) x 0.53 (d)

Meet the Author

Ilene Cooper (www.ilenecooper.com) is the award-winning author of more than thirty books for children and teenagers. She is the Senior Editor at Booklist, the review journal of the American Library Association, and lives outside Chicago, Illinois.

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