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Jim Ugly

Jim Ugly

4.0 2
by Sid Fleischman, Kerin McCue (Narrated by)

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Part timber wolf, Jim Ugly is a proud and aloof one-man dog. And that man is Jake's father, an actor in the raffish world of the frontier West. When he suddenly disappears, the boy and the dog are thrown into an uneasy alliance on a wild, helter-skelter journey to the Sierra Nevada mountains and San Francisco. Here is Newbery winner Fleischman at his finest, in a


Part timber wolf, Jim Ugly is a proud and aloof one-man dog. And that man is Jake's father, an actor in the raffish world of the frontier West. When he suddenly disappears, the boy and the dog are thrown into an uneasy alliance on a wild, helter-skelter journey to the Sierra Nevada mountains and San Francisco. Here is Newbery winner Fleischman at his finest, in a book full of comic surprises and swift adventure.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In what PW called a "comic, suspense-laden western adventure," a boy searches for his supposedly dead father with the help of Jim Ugly, his father's wolf-like dog. Ages 8-12. (June) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In this comic, suspense-laden Western adventure, Jake searches for his supposedly dead father, an itinerant actor, with the help of Jim Ugly, his father's wolf-like dog. The hunt takes them from Blowfly, Nev., to San Francisco, with Jim Ugly reluctantly accepting Jake's authority. Their grudging but dogged teamwork helps them fend off a beautiful actress, a money-hungry cousin and a bounty hunter--all seeking out Jake's father and the fortune in diamonds they believe he has. Finding work with a theater company, Jake is reunited with his father on stage. The pursuers give up when Dad returns the diamonds in the craws of hundreds of chickens and the curtain falls on a happy scene, with Jake making peace with Jim and his father marrying the beautiful actress. Fleischman's ( The Whipping Boy ) light, tautly constructed genre piece is like the hair-raising melodramas in which Jake appears: certain to entertain, with all plot lines neatly tied together at the end. Illustrations not seen by PW. Ages 8-up. (Apr.)
School Library Journal
Gr 4-8-- With a little silent-movie piano accompaniment, this rollicking parody of Western melodrama would effortlessly unfold across any stage. It is 1894, and Jake Bannock's actor father, Sam, has just been buried. The 12-year-old boy is seemingly left an orphan with no inheritance except for an unnamed, one-man dog, ``part elkhound, part something else, and a large helping of short-eared timber wolf.'' Jake calls him Jim Ugly. Mystery arises immediately . Where are the diamonds his dad is accused of stealing? Was that really Dad buried there in the Nevada Desert at Blowfly? Jake sets out in search of the answers, aided by Jim Ugly's keen nose. The two travel by baggage car from one town to another, trying to avoid a bounty-hunting, former cavalry sergeant who villainously skulks around the story's corners. Jake tells his own adventurous story--how he meets Wilhelmina Marlybone-Jenkins, an actress who was Sam's sweetheart; how he plays the apple-balancing role of William Tell's son with a traveling theatrical troupe; and how his search pays off when he sees his father--alive and well--on a San Francisco trolley. The climax and resolution make for a wonderfully improbable, mesquite flavored, farce. Jake's voice is simple and direct, made vivid by Fleischman's command of simile and metaphor. --Katharine Bruner, Brown Middle School, Harrison, TN

Product Details

Recorded Books, LLC
Publication date:
Edition description:
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

The Pine Box

I was hiding in the tall weeds. It was about the only place on the desert to hide from everybody. I remember when we first came to Blowfly, Nevada, my dad squinted one eye at the flat countryside and said, "Jake, I believe if you climbed a tree, you could see clear to Mexico, if you could find a tree."

I looked up at the hot, windy sky and watched a lone chicken hawk drifting like a speck of dust, hunting. Yesterday there had been a pair of them. I wondered whathad happened to the other. Someone might have taken a shot at it. I wondered if birds of prey grieved.

I turned over and thought about what was going to happen to me and to Dad's dog, Jim Ugly.

Jim Ugly was a big sandy mongrel, part elkhound, part something else, and a large helping of short-eared timber wolf. There was wolf in his throat, too, for he never barked. He might yip or bay or wolf-howl, but mostly he was silent. I'd never seen such a quiet, keep to-himself dog. You just never knew when he was going to behave like a dog or like a wolf.

Dad never got around to naming him. He had just called the dog Amigo, which means "friend" in Spanish, and sometimes Jim Amigo, but I never called him that. The mongrel never much liked me and I never much liked him, and out of spite I hung the name Jim Ugly on him.

He was a one-man dog--Dad's dog. And anytime I got too close to my father, there were Jim Ugly's yellow wolf eyes glaring like heat lightning.

Dad was buried less than a week ago, the morning of June 3, 1894. Jim Ugly was left to me, and me to Jim Ugly to get along as best we could. I'd hardly seen him since the funeral. He'dturn up once in a while, but mostly he kept to himself somewhere.

"If you won't shoot that infernal mutt, I will!"

It was my cousin Aurora, who was full grown, and her gambling man husband, Axie. She was always yelling that Axie was born tired and raised lazy, but I liked him. They were walking back toward the house and didn't know I was close by in the weeds. Dad and me had come to stay with them in Blowfly, where they were homesteading and Axie was growing about a million chickens. Who'd think to look for Dad on a chicken farm? He'd be safe.

Safe from that crazy yellowleg who was tracking him with a Colt army revolver. When I dreamed nightmares, I dreamed of the cavalry sergeant with the wide yellow stripes running down the sides of his blue pants. He couldn't still be in the army, not with a brown bowler hat cocked on his head, but he still wore his yellowleg pants stuffed into his boot tops.

After the funeral Aurora decided it was up to her to bring me up. But I just wanted to be left alone. I could bring myself up.

"He's the boy's dog now, Aurora," said Axie. "You can't shoot it."

"But that mongrel wolf is a sheep killer!" Aurora shouted.

"There's no proof"

"Ed Rippy saw him pull down a sheep, and he'll sue if we don't get rid of the mutt.

"Ed is a liar."

Aurora's voice had a lot of natural screech in it. "We can't keep a sheep-killing dog! I'll shoot the creature myself, Axie."

"Calm down. That dog's all your uncle left Jake."

"Except the diamonds."

"There are no diamonds, Aurora."

Someone in San Francisco had put a twenty-five-hundred-dollar bounty on Dad's head over some missing diamonds. "If I could find out who it was offering that money, I'd turn myself in and collect it myself," Dad had remarked in his rich, soft-edged voice.

At first the price on his head didn't seem to worry him. San Francisco was easy to stay out of. But not long after, we were crossing a muddy street in Monterey, where he had me in boarding school, and the yellowleg started blasting away at him. Dad shoved me down in the mud in the yelling and confusion the bounty hunter disappeared.

A lead ball had lodged in Dad's right shoulder, but what made him so lightning-mad was that the yellowleg had come so close to shooting me. "Jake," he'd said, "Pack your mother's picture, and let's make ourselves hard to find."

Jim Ugly. Copyright © by Sid Fleischman. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

Sid Fleischman wrote more than sixty books for children, adults, and magicians. Among his many awards was the Newbery Medal for his novel The Whipping Boy. The author described his wasted youth as a magician and newspaperman in his autobiography The Abracadabra Kid. His other titles include The Entertainer and the Dybbuk, a novel, and three biographies, Sir Charlie: Chaplin, The Funniest Man in the World; The Trouble Begins at 8: A Life of Mark Twain in the Wild, Wild West; and Escape! The Story of The Great Houdini.

Jos. A. Smith, illustrator of Hurry! by Jessie Haas, Ogres! Ogres! Ogres!: A Feasting Frenzy from A to Z by Nicholas Heller, and A Creepy Countdown by Charlotte Huck, lives in New York City.

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Jim Ugly 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The title of the book I am reviewing is Jim Ugly by Sid Fleischman. This book has a western theme and it focuses on a twelve year old boy named Jake and his dog Jim Ugly. Jake’s father is supposedly dead but Jake isn’t so sure of that, neither is Jim Ugly. Jake and his dog take off on a trail to try to and find Jakes father all while being pursued by some strange people. I think, at first, the book is a little slow and boring but when you get further along it really hooks you in it. Jim Ugly is a fun book to read and it keeps you wandering what will happen next. I recommend this book mainly to kids ages nine through eleven but, I think that older kids might enjoy this novel. I think, over all, Sid Fleischman wrote a well written novel.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Jim Ugly is the best book I have ever read. It thrills you with the constant setting change, chases, and puzzles. The part where he sees his dad is my favorite. The main characters are his dad, him, Jim Ugly Ms.Wilemina, and the Yankee man. They go from a small town of bull head to summers town to San Fransico. A man dressed in a Yankee uniform follows a small boy to try and get close to his dad who was acused of stealing diamonds from Ms. Wilemina who loves his dad. Ms. Wilemina was tricked to believe his dad stole them. The Yankee man catches him and his dad and forces them to show him where the diamonds are. His dad brought them back and showed them the chickens ate the diamonds where Ms. Wilemina and them escape. The End