Jack Strong Takes a Stand

Jack Strong Takes a Stand

5.0 2
by Tommy Greenwald, Melissa Mendes

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Jack Strong just wants to be a regular kid. But his parents have overscheduled his week with every extracurricular activity under the sun: tennis, baseball, cello, karate, tutoring, and Chinese language lessons--all on top of regular homework. His parents want him to be "well-rounded" and prepared for those crucial college applications. Jack's just about had enough

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Jack Strong just wants to be a regular kid. But his parents have overscheduled his week with every extracurricular activity under the sun: tennis, baseball, cello, karate, tutoring, and Chinese language lessons--all on top of regular homework. His parents want him to be "well-rounded" and prepared for those crucial college applications. Jack's just about had enough.
And so, in Jack Strong Takes a Stand by Tommy Greenwald, he stages a sit-in on his couch and refuses to get up until his parents let him quit some of the extracurriculars. As Jack's protest gains momentum, he attracts a local television host who is interested in doing a segment about him. Tensions rise as counter-protesters camp out across the street from Jack and his couch. Jack's enjoying this newfound attention, but he's worried that this sit-in may have gone too far.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Between school, orchestra, tutoring, karate, and swimming, 12-year-old Jack Strong has a full schedule, designed by his father to ensure he’ll get into a good college. But after a week when Jack is stuck in Chinese class while the ice cream store gives away sundaes, must attend a cello recital instead of a party, and can’t celebrate his own game-winning hit with the baseball team because he’s due at tennis, Jack shuts down. Like Bartleby the Scrivener, he refuses to budge, intent to sit on the couch until he is allowed to reduce his workload. The school newspaper gets wind of his strike and spreads word about one boy’s heroic opposition to overprogramming. Greenwald (the Charlie Joe Jackson series) has a good eye for authentic details that breathe life into characters: Jack’s mother “watched about one pitch per game, the rest of the time she was yakking,” while his father videotapes every at-bat. In the end, common sense prevails, and a family emergency makes Jack realize his EMT training is not such a bad idea. Mendes contributes humorous b&w spot illustrations. Ages 8–12. (Sept.)
Children's Literature - Heidi Hauser Green
It is a truism that every parent wants the best for their child. In Jack Strong’s case, that means his dad wants him to participate in as many activities as possible. Mr. Strong believes this will ensure that Jack is well prepared for college when the time comes. Baseball, cello, junior EMTs, soccer, math tutoring, Chinese, swimming, tennis…sometimes it seems to Jack that he has only just gotten home before he has to run off to the next thing. After a recital causes him to turn down an invitation to a popular girl’s party, and the first lesson of yet another activity causes him not to be able to celebrate a “World Series” victory with his Little League teammates, Jack decides he has had enough. From his living room couch, he vows not to move until his parents let him quit the many activities that fill his hours. Jack is buoyed by the support of his maternal grandmother, as well as his mother’s acceptance of his decision. Jack’s “stand” takes on a life of its own after a friend’s sibling writes about it for the high school paper. Word spreads to the media, and soon there is a stage in the front yard, a microphone in Jack’s face, and protestors across the street. What will it take for Jack and his family to bring this stalemate to a close? Greenwald’s story seems outlandish from the start but carries some good messages about life and balance, family, and communication. Recommended. Reviewer: Heidi Hauser Green; Ages 8 to 12.
School Library Journal
Gr 4–6—Jack Strong feels like the most overscheduled middle schooler in the world. His parents, who want him to be prepared for college, have enrolled him in every enrichment activity possible, including cello, tutoring, karate, and Chinese lessons. One day, he decides to go on strike. He stages a sit-in on his couch and refuses to get up until his parents let him quit some of the extracurriculars. The local TV station takes an interest, which leads to protests and counter-protests outside his home. It also creates disruptions within his family, as his father opposes him, his grandmother staunchly supports him, and his mother tries to keep the peace. Jack is a thoroughly likable character with a wry sense of humor, and, as he narrates his story, readers will understand his frustration. Mendes's cartoon sketches are a good match for this funny and fast-moving tale. As the whole situation spirals out of control, Greenwald successfully melds plot and character surprises to engage youngsters and brings the story to an emotionally satisfying conclusion. Both avid and reluctant readers will enjoy meeting Jack Strong.—Carole Phillips, Greenacres Elementary School, Scarsdale, NY
Kirkus Reviews
Jack Strong is an ordinary kid with an extraordinary schedule who finally chooses to become a couch potato to make his point. Cello, soccer, tennis, EMT training, Chinese: Jack's parents, especially his dad, expect him to be a well-rounded person when it becomes time to apply for college, and to this end, they are filling his days with an overload of extracurricular activities. But what Jack really wants is more time on his couch, where he can spend some quality time daydreaming. One afternoon, Jack can't take it anymore and goes on strike; he refuses to get off the couch until his parents agree to let him quit the activities he doesn't like to do. Publicity and hilarity ensue, which Jack finds a nice change, but soon he realizes there are greater things worth standing up for, like the very family he's angry at. Greenwald, author of the Charlie Joe Jackson series, writes with a relaxed tone that young readers will identify with, and he touches on subjects that kids and parents alike will find relevant, capturing the conundrum of overscheduling with poignancy and humor. While a few plot points are a little far-fetched, overall the book offers a winning combination of ethics and slapstick. Drawings by Mendes are simple but effective. A cautionary tale the whole family will find amusing and enlightening. (Fiction. 8-11)

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Product Details

Roaring Brook Press
Publication date:
Sold by:
Sales rank:
640L (what's this?)
File size:
2 MB
Age Range:
9 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt


I was about to go to soccer practice when I decided to go on strike.
I didn’t mean for it to become this big thing.
I was just feeling kind of tired, that’s all.
But the next thing I knew, there were two big television trucks outside my house.
There was a stage on my front lawn, with lights mounted on twenty-foot poles. There was a television host sitting right next to me. There was an audience gathered in front of the stage, full of people. Half of them thought I was a hero, the other half thought I was a menace to society.
And they were all there because of me.
Just because I sat down on a couch.
Who would’ve thought?!
*   *   *
But first, a little background information.
My name is Jack Strong, but I used to wish it wasn’t.
I know, it sounds like a cool name. And it would be a cool name, if I actually were strong. But I’m not. Just lifting my ridiculously heavy backpack in the morning is a challenge.
The truth is, I’m kind of weak.
Which the other kids think is hilarious, of course.
I go to Horace Henchell Middle School. It’s a typical middle school. The classrooms are way too hot, and the cheeseburgers are way too cold. No one knows who Horace Henchell is, but it’s generally assumed that he is both well respected and dead.
I do really well at the school part of school. My grades are excellent, and the teachers like me. I don’t make trouble.
The non-school part is a little harder for me. I’m not what you would call a loser or anything, but I’m definitely not at the top of the heap, either. I’m in that huge middle section of kids who mind their own business and try to get through the day without any real drama. Usually it works. I’m not a great athlete, and I don’t think the modeling agencies will be calling anytime soon, but some people seem to think I’m pretty funny. Every once in a while I make a joke in class that the other kids laugh at, and that’s enough to keep me off the list of dorks and lame-os, at least for the time being.
I have one really good friend, Leo Landis, who I’ve eaten lunch with every day since second grade, and one really bad enemy, Alex Mutchnik, who’s hated me ever since he was caught cheating off my math quiz last year. (I didn’t tell on him, but he hates me anyway.) Alex’s favorite activities are knocking my backpack off my shoulders and gluing my locker shut.
You know, typical school stuff.
But I definitely don’t hate school. There’s a lot about it that I like.
For instance, there’s Cathy Billows, who’s so pretty that it makes my eyebrows hurt. There’s Mrs. Bender, my favorite teacher, whose tiny but unmistakable mustache makes me smile every time I see it.
And there’s the bus ride home.
The ride home is incredibly important because it’s the one time of day I have completely to myself. I always sit in the same seat: third row back, window seat on the left. The seat next to me is usually empty, but I don’t mind—it gives me a place to put my backpack. And as the bus slowly rolls away, I gradually begin to put the school day behind me.
“Have a nice night, Horace,” I say. And then—using my jacket as a pillow—I rest my head against the window, smile, close my eyes, and think about my absolute favorite thing in the world.
The couch.
*   *   *
To someone who doesn’t know any better, our couch is no great shakes.
It has one or two rips in it, from when my dog, Maddie, makes herself comfortable a little too aggressively. It has plenty of stains—soda stains, sauce stains, chocolate stains, and several mystery stains. And it might not surprise you to learn that it smells a little, too. My mom always talks about getting rid of it, but I won’t let her.
Because to me, that couch represents everything good.
It’s where I watch Dancing with the Chimps, my favorite TV show. It’s where I play Silver Warriors of Doom II, the video game that Leo and I would happily play until we are old men, if only our parents would let us. It’s where Maddie lies down on my lap, even though she’s way too big to be a lap dog.
It’s where I daydream about Cathy Billows.
It’s where I forget about Alex Mutchnik.
It’s where I eat a huge bowl of Super Fun Flakies every day after school.
I could go on and on, but I think you get the picture. The couch is pretty much my favorite place in the world.
The only problem was the outside world kept interrupting.
Because here’s the thing: I was probably the most overscheduled kid in the entire universe. Or, at least, I was tied with all the other overscheduled kids. And there wasn’t anything I could do about it.
And then came the week of June 6.

Text copyright © 2013 by Tommy Greenwald
Illustrations copyright © 2013 by Melissa Mendes

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