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Jack on the Tracks: Four Seasons of Fifth Grade (Jack Henry Series #2)

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Overview

Inspired by the author's childhood diaries, this new collection of Jack Henry stories depicts a fifth-grade year to end all fifth-grade years. Living in a Miami rental home with a busy railroad track running a stone's throw from the backyard, the author's alter ego is plagued by a know-it-all older sister, a bizarre Francophile teacher, a series of crazed cats, a slightly off-kilter father, a tapeworm, and a pair of escaped convicts--to name just a few of his antagonists. But for Jack Henry, hailed by School ...
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Jack on the Tracks: Four Seasons of Fifth Grade (Jack Henry Series #2)

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Overview

Inspired by the author's childhood diaries, this new collection of Jack Henry stories depicts a fifth-grade year to end all fifth-grade years. Living in a Miami rental home with a busy railroad track running a stone's throw from the backyard, the author's alter ego is plagued by a know-it-all older sister, a bizarre Francophile teacher, a series of crazed cats, a slightly off-kilter father, a tapeworm, and a pair of escaped convicts--to name just a few of his antagonists. But for Jack Henry, hailed by School Library Journal as "an 'everyboy' whose world may be wacko but whose heart and spirit are eminently sane," no matter how rough the ride, there is always light at the end of the tunnel.

After moving with his unbearable sister to Miami, Florida, Jack tries to break some of his bad habits but finds himself irresistibly drawn to things disgusting, gross, and weird.

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Editorial Reviews

Dean Schneider
Jack Henry's back in a laugh-out-loud read inhabited by killer cats, giant tapeworms, and escaped convicts. This latest installment of Jack's saga, which relates the events of Jack's fifth-grade year, is full of scenes you can't resist reading aloud to anyone willing to listen (such as the one in which Jack feeds his sister a giant cockroach named Zippy, or watches his father gorge himself on a seventy-two ounce steak shaped like the United States, or finds himself locked out of his house wearing nothing but his best friend's mother's underwear). And if several scenes offend readers who don't share Jack's fascination with the rude and gross, that's okay; Jack's parents, teacher, and sister are on hand to teach jack good manners and judgement and to help him grow up, or at least to keep him from being a complete moron. As in the previous three jack Henry book (Heads or Tails, Jack's New Power, and Jack's Black Book), to which Jack on the Tracks is a prequel, Jack keeps a journal. However, in this novel, the journal seems more extraneous, something Jack only mentions now and then. This book will appeal to the many fans of the Jack Henry series, and it can provide inspiration to young writers who will see how Gantos mined his own early school years for stories to embellish.
Horn Book Magazine
Publishers Weekly
Gantos draws inspiration from his own childhood diaries in the fourth collection of stories about Jack Henry. In these nine tales, his aggravations include his annoying older sister, some crazy cats, a tapeworm and a pair of escaped convicts. Ages 10-up. (Sept.)n Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Children's Literature - Betty Hicks
Yes! Jack is back--and as funny as ever. Based on the author's own childhood journals, this fourth book of Jack Henry stories is as hilarious as the first three. Be prepared for Jack telling tales of eating tapeworms, dropping cockroaches in his sister's mouth, and suffering through the unlucky deaths of multiple cats. Jack is cursed with the selected wisdom peculiar to fifth-grade boys--don't open the door to strangers, but do hop on a homemade water ski pulled by a car in a lightning storm. While Gantos comically salutes the sometimes gross and reckless nature of boys in tasteless ways that kids will love, he also weaves genuine insight and sensitivity into the larger, unspoken concerns that inhabit every child's head. Jack is trying hard to be responsible, to convince his older sister that he's mature, and to show his teacher that there's more to boys than snakes and snails. He fails miserably, of course, but his trying will warm readers' hearts (while turning their stomachs and attacking their funny bones).
VOYA
In the fifth installment of Gantos's semiautobiographical series, Jack Henry and his family are in Miami, where Jack's dad plans to start another new job. As in previous Jack books, Gantos creates a world surrounding the Henry family, a culture with its own tall tales (Jack's father's stories are innocently offcolor but hilarious), heroes, and enemies (Jack's sister Betsy is the cleverest and the most conniving of nemeses). A fuzzylipped francophile, a psychotic security guard neighbor, and a welcomecatwielding best friend round out the cast of characters in this overthetop memoir. Told in vignette form, each chapter of Jack on the Tracks is prefaced with illustrations and text that appear to be excerpted from Jack's diary. The line drawings and snippets of handwritten text are titillating, although the text is not necessarily repeated verbatim within the chapter. Firstperson narration is tinged with the tentative sarcasm of the burgeoning wisenheimer; Jack Henry's escapades are delivered wideeyed, and tongue in cheek with not overdone hyperbole. A "boy book" with bothsex appeal, Jack includes justgrossenough humor to prompt both giggles and grimaces. Throughout the book, Gantos describes the genuine sentiments of the young Jack, who questions both his sensitivity and his inexplicable fascination with what he calls "gross, filthy, disgusting things." Though Jack ends a bit abruptly, Gantos hints at more to come. Jack Henry will be back. VOYA CODES: 4Q 4P M J (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Broad general YA appeal; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9). 1999, Farrar Straus & Giroux, Ages 12 to 15, 192p, $16.Reviewer:Amy S. Pattee
Kirkus Reviews
Jack's back (Jack's Black Book, 1997, etc.) and wacko enough to water ski on land, feed his sleeping sister a cockroach, and bring about the unfortunate demise of three pet cats. Gantos's hyperactive rewriting of his own diaries zips Jack through fifth grade and a barrage of overlapping adventures. Like the steel sphere in a pinball game, Jack bounces around between his older sister's insults, his parents admonishments, and his friend Tack's dares. None of this is for the weak of heart or the gullible; between picking a hookworm (his "secret pet") out of his arm and lying in a hole with a screaming locomotive passing overhead, Jack is no role model, but he is real. His battles with his emotions—why he cries all the time, why he is "more interested in gross things than in beautiful things"—and his struggles to do what he deems right and adult (instead of wrong and childish) ring true. Have readers fasten their seat belts for this one, or—for a real jolt of Jack—don't. (Fiction. 10-12)
From the Publisher
“Jack . . . returns here in an account of the year . . . when his family first moves to Florida . . . His struggle for maturation is enhanced by Gantos’s effervescent writing style and grasp of the gross and horrifying . . . This will reel kids right in.” —Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

“A laugh-out-loud read inhabited by killer cats, giant tapeworms, and escaped convicts.” —The Horn Book

 

“Hilarious, exquisitely painful, and utterly on-target.” —Booklist

 

“Poignant, funny, and real.” —School Library Journal

 

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780374437176
  • Publisher: Square Fish
  • Publication date: 9/12/2001
  • Series: Jack Henry Series , #2
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 192
  • Sales rank: 449,108
  • Age range: 10 - 14 Years
  • Lexile: 740L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.24 (w) x 7.76 (h) x 0.52 (d)

Meet the Author

Jack Gantos has written books for people of all ages, from picture books and middle-grade fiction to novels for young adults and adults. His works include Hole in My Life, a memoir that won the Michael L. Printz and Robert F. Sibert Honors, Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key, a National Book Award Finalist, Joey Pigza Loses Control, a Newbery Honor book, and Dead End in Norvelt, winner of the Newbery Medal and the Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction.

Jack was born in Mount Pleasant, Pennsylvania, and when he was seven, his family moved to Barbados. He attended British schools, where there was much emphasis on reading and writing, and teachers made learning a lot of fun. When the family moved to south Florida, he found his new classmates uninterested in their studies, and his teachers spent most of their time disciplining students. Jack retreated to an abandoned bookmobile (three flat tires and empty of books) parked out behind the sandy ball field, and read for most of the day. The seeds for Jack’s writing career were planted in sixth grade, when he read his sister’s diary and decided he could write better than she could. He begged his mother for a diary and began to collect anecdotes he overheard at school, mostly from standing outside the teachers’ lounge and listening to their lunchtime conversations. Later, he incorporated many of these anecdotes into stories.

While in college, he and an illustrator friend, Nicole Rubel, began working on picture books. After a series of well-deserved rejections, they published their first book, Rotten Ralph, in 1976. It was a success and the beginning of Jack’s career as a professional writer. Jack continued to write children’s books and began to teach courses in children’s book writing and children’s literature. He developed the master’s degree program in children’s book writing at Emerson College and the Vermont College M.F.A. program for children’s book writers. He now devotes his time to writing books and educational speaking. He lives with his family in Boston, Massachusetts.

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Reading Group Guide

Discussing and Responding

In the story “Riding Shotgun,” Mr. Henry

tries to teach Jack the difference between

“thinking” and “worrying.” Explain what Mr.

Henry means when he says, “In the game of

life, one will take you to the top of the heap.

And one will put you on the bottom.” What

are Jack’s greatest worries about moving to

Miami? Jack knows that worrying shows

weakness. Find evidence in the book that

Jack is weak. When does he show strength?

Mrs. Pierre, Jack’s fifth-grade teacher, teaches

her students the five senses. She tells them

that the sixth sense is “good taste.” How does

Mrs. Pierre define “good taste”? Why does Mrs.

Pierre think that Jack’s story “The Ugly Thing”

is in bad taste? How does Jack reveal that he

has “good taste” in the story “Beauty and

Order”?

Jack Henry has a “generous imagination.”

How does he use his imagination to create a

birthday gift for Pete? Why don’t his parents

appreciate his imagination? Why is an

imagination important for a writer?

Jack goes to the library to find a book about

becoming an adult. The librarian tells him that

the only book in the library on the subject is

approved by the school board, but he must

have permission from his parents to borrow

the book. Ask students to define censorship.

Discuss whether the library’s policy requiring

parental permission to take out the book is

considered a form of censorship. How do you

think Jack’s parents would react if he asked

them for permission to borrow the book?

Reaching across the

Curriculum

Language Arts

Jack Gantos uses similes to create certain

images — for example, “the screened door

banged back against the jamb like a starter’s

pistol” (p. 1). Find other examples of similes

in the book.

Jack has no idea about what his life will be

like in Miami. He wonders whether it will be

funny, scary, or mysterious. Ask students to take a scene from any of the stories in the

book and rewrite it either as a comedy, a

mystery, or a tragedy.

Social Studies

Mrs. Pierre takes Jack’s class to a mansion

to experience the beauty of French things.

Divide the class into groups and assign each

group a room in the mansion. Send them to

the library to research French furniture, art,

books, or other things that could possibly be

displayed in their assigned room. Ask them to

write a description of the room that might

appear in a brochure about the mansion.

Science

Tack Smith’s older brother dies of alcohol

poisoning. Ask students to find out what

organizations or agencies in their city or

town work to educate teenagers about the

dangers of alcohol abuse. Ask a person from

one of the organizations to speak to the class.

Art

Mr. Henry gives Jack a book of Aesop’s

fables. This is an appropriate gift for Jack

since Mr. Henry likes to teach lessons

through story. Ask students to read a fable

and make a drawing to illustrate the lesson

that it teaches.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 13 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(10)

4 Star

(1)

3 Star

(0)

2 Star

(1)

1 Star

(1)

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Sort by: Showing all of 13 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 13, 2012

    Awesome! Also read dead end in Norvelt. :)

    This is one of the best book I have read and probably will read.
    XD

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 28, 2006

    great book

    i loved this book so much

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 4, 2006

    Tracks is wonderful

    I picked up this book a few weeks ago and i loved this book. Its a wonderful book with a twist of comedy. It shows the ups and downs of life and is very enjoyable!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 8, 2003

    Hilarious book

    this is the most funniest book i have ever read it is about a boy named jack who loses every cat in freak accidents.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 23, 2013

    Stupid

    Ase hole book

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 31, 2011

    The book kept my interest and it was exciting. - you must check it out!

    If you are looking for a book that has a life of a unique fifth grader, than Jack on the Track by Jack Gantos is deffinately the book for you! Have you ever moved to a whole new town and started a new life, well Jack Henry jr. has. Jack Henry jr. has to move to Miami in a rental home, so this means that Jack has to start a new different life with new friends and a new teacher.Jack moves in down the road from a boy named Tack, who eventually becomes best friends with Jack. In Jack's new life he has a new weird french speaking teacher who didnt like his paper on a tapeworm. Then as usual he has a sister who gets revenge on whatever Jack does to her,and he has a little brother who pesters him. Throughout the whole book Jack learns not to lie to get his way and the most important thing is he faces trying to grow up and face his fears in life. Do you want to know why the book is called Jack on the Tracks? Does Jack have the courage to face his fears? If you want to figure these questions out you will have to read the book to find out! What I liked best about the book was that it was about Jacks journeys through his new fifth grade life. I would recommend this book to ages 9-12 who like reading books about fifth graders journeys. THE BOOK WAS GREAT READ IT!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 28, 2002

    The Best Book You Can Buy!

    Jack is a hillarious fifth-grader with a BIG imagination! This book is great for ANYONE! With characters like Miss Kitty, Sunny Winterbottom, Tack, and a neighbor who is 'Gleefully preparing for the end of the world' You can't go wrong! And don't forget his family: a father who tries hard not to let Jack be a 'insane fluffball' and a bratty sister. It's a great book!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 22, 2012

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 11, 2012

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    Posted July 1, 2011

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 6, 2013

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 23, 2011

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 9, 2011

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