Jack Plank Tells Tales


From the author of Tuck Everlasting, her first novel in 25 years
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From the author of Tuck Everlasting, her first novel in 25 years
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Editorial Reviews

Julie Just
In her latest book, Babbitt takes an old-fashioned concept and gives it storytelling verve…The earnestness of Jack's delivery adds to the charm, as do Babbitt's comical line drawings.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

Billed as Babbitt's first novel in 25 years, this book is really a charming collection of linked stories about the gentler side of pirate life aboard the Avarice. The tale-teller, Jack Plank, understands that "plundering" is not his strong suit: "You have to yell and make faces and rattle your sword.... Jack didn't seem to have a knack for it." So when the pirating economy slows, kindly Captain Scudder is forced to give him the pink slip. Put ashore with a small bag of gold florins donated by his shipmates, Jack finds himself on Saltwash Island, and convinces Mrs. DelFresno to take him in as a boarder. She's not too sure about renting a room to a pirate (his attire gives him away) but daughter Nina, 11, promises to help Jack quickly find a new occupation. Over the next eight days, however, Jack talks himself out of one profession after another by regaling his fellow boarders with colorful stories from his pirating past, featuring ghosts, mermaids and shapeshifters (but no violence), each of which demonstrates why he could never be a farmer, baker, jeweler or barber. Jack's lilting tales make an ideal read-aloud—so long as no one misses an up-close look at Babbitt's skilled pencil drawings. Perceptive readers will figure out long before Jack precisely what profession he's perfect for (the title gives it away), as Babbitt expertly weaves a message into Jack's tales: that stories are just as vital to a community as farming the land or baking bread. Ages 8-up. (May)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Children's Literature - Elizabeth Young
Following the current popular trend for pirate stories, Babbitt, of Tuck Everlasting fame, seems to have worked her magic again in this work for middle readers. Set in the Caribbean of 1720, Jack, an outsourced pirate, must fend for himself once he has been left ashore. With enough coins for a week's survival, Jack must find steady work and prove himself fit, or move along. He encounters Mrs. DelFresno, the proprietress of a boarding house willing to give him a chance. What follows is a description of Jack's daily attempts to find work. Each day is a chapter, and each chapter is an adventure. The chapters are a sheer delight to read and difficult to put down. Are his adventures real? Jack finds out what he is not—a farmer, baker, actor, fortune teller, fisherman, barber, goldsmith, or a musician. So what is Jack? He is himself! Find out how his new life is resolved, or if it is at all. A fresh and welcome addition to children's literature from a well respected, award winning author.
KLIATT - Paula Rohrlick
"Jack Plank was an out-of-work pirate," begins this enchanting story about telling stories. Jack was never very good at plundering, and now he's come onshore to stay at Mrs. DelFresno's boardinghouse and look for more fitting employment. The problem is that nothing quite suits, but each attempt reminds him of a story, which he relates to the other boarders: the tale of a man who bakes a cake for a mermaid, for instance, or the one about a sailor who turns into an octopus in the light of the full moon, or the music-loving croc, or the girl raised by seagulls. The story of the mummy's hand and the disappointed ghost is particularly memorable, but all the tales offer a charming mix of sly humor, mystery and magic; and in the end, of course, Jack finds the perfect job. This is the first new book in 25 years from expert storyteller Babbitt, author of Tuck Everlasting and many other wonderful titles. It will have great appeal to middle school and upper elementary students, and it will make a terrific read-aloud, too. It's sure to delight all younger YA audiences. Babbitt supplied the b/w drawings that illustrate the text.
School Library Journal

Gr 2-6 - When a pirate ship falls on hard times, Jack Plank is let go because he is not very good at plundering. Left in the Caribbean town of Saltwash, he has a bit of good luck to temper the bad. Eleven-year-old Nina, the daughter of the widow he boards with, offers to show him around the port town to find work. But at dinner each night, Jack reports to the other boarders his unsuccessful day. Trouble is, Jack is not well suited to be a farmer, baker, fortune-teller, fisherman, barber, goldsmith, actor, or musician, each for a different reason. For instance, he can't farm in the fields across the bridge because he once helped an ungrateful troll reposition itself under it. He can't take edibles from the sea because a shipmate once turned into an octopus and saved his life, and so on. These stories spin out, one each for eight days, at the end of which, the resourceful Nina comes up with the perfect job. Babbitt has a lively time with proper names (Leech, Snipe, Scudder, Old Miss Withers) and swiftly delineates character in short conversations at dinner. Jack's tallish stories make fresh use of familiar folklore motifs: a mummy seeking its missing hand, a mermaid who enchants a sailor, the fate of a feral child raised by seagulls. Babbitt's spare black line drawings introduce each chapter and give readers some indication of the person whose story Jack relates. Some of the tales, which beg to be read aloud, will leave listeners arguing about what really happened while others will make them grin. All in all, this is one treasure of a book.-Susan Hepler, formerly at Burgundy Farm Country Day School, Alexandria, VA

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Kirkus Reviews
Babbitt's first offering in 25 years does not disappoint. Jack's pirate crew has fallen on hard times, and as Jack prefers not to take part in the plundering and so contributes the least to their profits, the crew decides that they have to let him go. Jack gets a room at Mrs. Delfresno's inn and eagerly begins to look for a second career. However, at the end of each day, Jack returns to the inn disappointed and still jobless. Each evening he explains to Mrs. Delfresno and the other boarders why he simply cannot work as a farmer, or a baker, or a fisherman, or, it seems, anything else. And each explanation is somehow connected to a riveting story from his days as a pirate. Jack's reason, for instance, that he cannot possibly work as a fisherman, is that one of his pirate cohorts, Figley, had morphed into an octopus in the light of the full moon, and for all Jack knows, the fellow might very well still be swimming around somewhere. Jack spins other yarns about fortune tellers, mummy hands, trolls and even a girl who grew up as a seagull. By the final page, it's obvious what Jack (and Babbitt) can do better than almost anyone else-tell a really good story. (Fiction. 8-11)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780545004978
  • Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.
  • Publication date: 4/1/2011
  • Pages: 144
  • Sales rank: 726,828
  • Age range: 8 - 11 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 7.60 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Natalie Babbitt is the author/illustrator of fourteen books for children, among them TUCK EVERLASTING, THE SEARCH FOR DELICIOUS, and KNEEKNOCK RISE, a Newbery Honor Book. Five of her books have been named ALA Notable Children's Books.

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