The Mostly True Story of Jack

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Overview

When Jack is sent to Hazelwood, Iowa, to live with his strange aunt and uncle, he expects a summer of boredom. Little does he know that the people of Hazelwood have been waiting for him for a long time. . . .

When he arrives, three astonishing things happen: First, he makes friends  —  not imaginary friends but actual friends. Second, he is beaten up by the town bully; the bullies at home always ignored him. Third, the richest man in town begins to plot Jack’s imminent, and ...

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The Mostly True Story of Jack

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Overview

When Jack is sent to Hazelwood, Iowa, to live with his strange aunt and uncle, he expects a summer of boredom. Little does he know that the people of Hazelwood have been waiting for him for a long time. . . .

When he arrives, three astonishing things happen: First, he makes friends  —  not imaginary friends but actual friends. Second, he is beaten up by the town bully; the bullies at home always ignored him. Third, the richest man in town begins to plot Jack’s imminent, and hopefully painful, demise. It’s up to Jack to figure out why suddenly everyone cares so much about him. Back home he was practically, well, invisible.

The Mostly True Story of Jack is a tale of magic, friendship, and sacrifice. It’s about things broken and things put back together. Above all, it’s about finding a place to belong.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In her first novel, children's nonfiction author Barnhill quickly establishes a sense of foreboding in the town of Hazelwood, Iowa, as Jack—ignored by and invisible to his parents, who are divorcing—moves in with his eccentric aunt and uncle, whose house appears to be possessed. Slowly, Jack befriends some locals, including 14-year-old twins Wendy and Frankie, the latter scarred and silent years after a childhood disappearance, and the eerily psychic Anders. Jack also becomes the focus of a town bully and an evil patriarch who cultivates power through magic; tension mounts as Jack provokes the supernatural forces that cause children and buildings to disappear. Suspense builds steadily, with twists and surprises woven throughout, and friendship emerges as a powerful theme. "Given that he didn't really know what it was like to have friends, Jack didn't realize until that very moment that he missed Wendy and that he had been very lonely for the last few days." Barnhill explores the struggle between good and evil and the power of love and sacrifice, creating a provocative and highly original mystery. Ages 8–12. (Aug.)
The Los Angeles Times
"There's a dry wit and playfulness to Barnhill's writing that recalls Lemony Snicket and Blue Balliett...a delightfully unusual gem."
The Bulletin
"Richly atmospheric, this folklorically flavored tale offers a strangely pleasing combination of midwestern charm and hauntingly creepy Tim Burton-like imagination. Barnhill reveals just enough of Hazelwood's many secrets to keep the readers gripped, and the perfectly timed pacing makes for a quick and accessible read."
starred review Booklist
* "Wonderful in the best possible way: filled with wonders and magic, yes, but magic that is ancient, numinous, and tied to the natural world...Barnhill's first novel for children is a marvel of both plotting and characterization, and it provides a foundation for the omnipresent magic that elevates this title to the first rank of contemporary children's literature."
VOYA - Taryn Super
Jack's parents decide to get a divorce, and they drop him off in Hazelwood, Iowa, to spend the summer with his aunt Mabel and uncle Clive. For his entire life, Jack has always felt invisible and alone, even within his own family. In Hazelwood, however, everyone seems to notice him. It is as if they are expecting his arrival. Jack quickly becomes friends with Wendy, Frankie, and Anders. He also makes some enemies, though, for reasons he does not yet understand. Clayton Avery, the town bully, starts picking on him, and Clayton's father, the most powerful man in town, wants Jack dead. Jack is unsettled by this newfound attention and the feeling that something is very wrong with the town of Hazelwood. As Jack slowly unravels the town's secrets, he discovers the reason he belongs in Hazelwood and finds himself in the middle of a magical battle of good versus evil. Barnhill tells a compelling story with genuine characters and a deliciously creepy atmosphere. The suspense builds from the very first page, and short chapters propel the reader along as the mystery unfolds. While the danger mounts, Jack and his friends defend one another and make difficult, but brave, sacrifices. This delightful story will captivate readers with its blend of magic, mystery, and adventure. Reviewer: Taryn Super
School Library Journal
Gr 5–8—Bullies and distracted, disinterested parents have left Jack with zero self-esteem when he arrives in the mysterious town of Hazelwood, IA. His mother coldly and unceremoniously dumps him off to spend the summer with his quirky aunt and uncle, Mabel and Clive Fitzpatrick. Barnhill's practiced use of personification signals readers that the Fitzpatricks' house and other inanimate objects are strangely alive. While Jack doesn't recollect having been there before, he has bouts of remembering, not quite déjà vu, and things seem eerily familiar in this spooky town where kids go missing and folks just seem to forget they existed. There's plenty of foreshadowing to alert readers to the scariness ahead as Jack makes friends, develops self-confidence, embarks on the age-old battle of good versus evil and, in the end, finds the place, albeit a strange one, where he belongs.—Patricia N. McClune, Conestoga Valley High School, Lancaster, PA
School Library Journal - Audio
Gr 5–8—Jack is accustomed to being ignored and having no friends, but he doesn't want to spend the summer in Hazelwood, Iowa, with his aunt and uncle. The town feels weird, magical almost, if a person believes in magic, which Jack does not. Everyone in town seems to recognize him, although he has never been there before. Jack makes his first real friends, is bullied, and the most powerful man in town is plotting the boy's death. Jack soon learns about the secret history of Hazelwood, about the magic gone wrong and about the Lady who whisks children away to her secret underground world where she steals their souls. When his friend Wendy disappears, Jack knows he is the only one who can bring her back and restore the magical balance. During his short summer in Hazelwood, Jack learns about friendship and his place in the world. Luke Daniels masterfully narrates Kelly Barnhill's tale (Little Brown, 2011), bringing even the minor characters to life and creating suspense from the first sentence. A fine choice for reluctant readers.—Amanda Rollins, Northwest Village School, Plainville, CT
Kirkus Reviews

A truly splendid amalgamation of mystery, magic and creeping horror will spellbind the middle-grade set.

Jack has lived much of his life feeling invisible, beneath the notice of bullies, friends or even his family. Yet when his parents divorce and he's sent to live with his aunt and uncle in Hazelwood, Iowa, Jack is shocked to discover that everyone in the town notices him. What's more, some of them seem to want to kill him. As he befriends some of the local kids, Jack reluctantly looks into the town's past and unravels the mystery behind why children have been disappearing there for decades and what his connection may be. This children's debut beautifully evokes the feeling of otherness kids come to feel around their peers and at the same time creates an entirely original mythology. The mystery deepens with each chapter, revealing exactly the right amount with each step. Answers are doled out so meticulously that readers will be continually intrigued rather than frustrated. The result is the ultimate page-turner.

An enticing read that is certain to keep both the hero and audience guessing at every carefully plotted reveal. (Fantasy. 9-12)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781455869732
  • Publisher: Brilliance Audio
  • Publication date: 9/11/2012
  • Format: MP3 on CD
  • Edition description: Unabridged
  • Age range: 9 - 12 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.37 (w) x 7.50 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Kelly Barnhill

Kelly Barnhill is a poet and literary fiction writer. This is her debut children's book. Kelly lives in Minnesota with her husband and three children.

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Read an Excerpt

The Mostly True Story of Jack


By Barnhill, Kelly

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Copyright © 2011 Barnhill, Kelly
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780316056700

Chapter One

They Notice

FRANKIE WAS THE FIRST TO KNOW. FRANKIE WAS THE FIRST to know most things—but since he hadn’t spoken since he was eight years old, it didn’t matter what he knew. He couldn’t tell anyone. Not so they could hear anyway. He sat at the dinner table, picking at his potatoes and pot roast, when a sound blew in from the wide expanse of the prairie.

A single high note, like a bell.

The rest of his family ate, wiped their faces, and excused themselves from the table. They didn’t notice the sound.

Frankie laid his left hand over the knot of scars that curled over half his face. No one knew who or what had given him those scars, or what happened to him when he was taken away at the age of eight and returned, marked and silent, two months later. Frankie would not, could not, tell. After all these years, the scars were still puffed and angry and very, very red. The kids in town called him Slasher Face or Freak Show. His mother said his face looked like a field of roses. What his mother did not know was that the scars had memories. They knew things.

It’s coming, the scars said. It’s back, they whispered.

No, Frankie thought, shaking his head. Not it. He. He’s coming.

We knew he’d come back.

That night, Frankie’s twin sister, Wendy, woke to a dream of bells. She sat up in bed, wide-eyed and panting. The night was silent except for the early notes of crickets warming up for their summer-long choruses in the backyard.

But she smelled something. Something sweet and strange that she had not smelled since both she and her brother were eight years old—the year that Frankie disappeared and came back again.

“What is that smell?” she asked her mother at breakfast.

“Bacon,” her mother said, handing her a plate.

“No, not that smell. The other one. The sweet smell.”

“Bacon is sweet,” her mother said in a tired voice as she poured her coffee into a chipped blue mug and drank it, black and steaming, in two quick gulps. She winced. “Eat your bacon,” she said. “On your last day of school, I’d like you to be on time for once. Maybe we can trick your teachers into raising their expectations for you for next year.”

Fat chance, Wendy wanted to say, but didn’t.

Her mother lifted a heavy bag of dog food and brought it to the backyard, much to the slobbering joy of their three very large, very loud, and very stupid dogs.

“And anyway,” Wendy said with her mouth full. “Bacon isn’t sweet.” But her mother had already walked out of the room and didn’t hear her.

Frankie padded down the stairs, already dressed, washed, combed, and set to go. Typical, Wendy thought, gulping down her orange juice. He sat down next to her and took her hand.

“Frankie,” she began, though she knew he wouldn’t answer her. “Do you smell that—?” Frankie lifted her hand to his face, laying her fingers on his ruined cheek. “Frankie, seriously, I don’t want to touch your scars, I—” She gasped. The scars burned and buzzed under her fingers.

Frankie looked at his sister, his eyes calm and unblinking. He kept her palm on the side of his face.

“Oh,” she said, her stomach sinking. She turned toward the window that faced west and felt her knees start to shake. “Oh no.”

Outside of town, Wendy’s best friend, Anders, felt something that he couldn’t immediately explain. He had been standing for most of the early morning with four of his older brothers, leaning against the sunny side of the gray barn while his dad and his oldest brother, Lars, loaded up the tractor and the truck. The Nilsson boys had given notes to their teachers that they were needed in the fields and would not be present in the last week of school. Farming, thankfully, has never operated on a school schedule, and the boys were relieved of their books and put to work.

But not Anders.

Since he was only thirteen, he was one year too young.

Next year, his father said.

“Be good, little bro,” his brothers taunted from the truck. “Study hard,” they snickered as they drove off. Anders watched them as they drove down the well-grooved track, the wheels spitting a plume of dust behind. For a moment, their brilliant blond heads glinted through a brown cloud of dirt, but then there was only the cloud, and Anders was alone.

What his brothers and father did not know was that Anders had absolutely no intention of going to school. When the truck disappeared, he turned toward the broad stretch of field and the wooded bluff beyond and removed his shoes.

The ground was cool, still, and damp, though the day was already warm and would likely get hot. He began to walk, though he did not know where he would go. His feet, he knew, would lead him somewhere interesting. They always did.

But on the sixth step, he felt something different. A humming sensation in the grass. On the seventh step it was stronger. By the time he had gone thirty paces, the ground pricked at his toes as though with electric shocks.

He’d felt it before. A long time ago.

“So,” he said out loud. The bees hummed, the ground hummed, even his bones and skin hummed and hummed. “So it’s coming back. Now. Right?” He waited, as though someone might bother to answer: the growing corn, the tangled wood, the clear wide sky. Nothing did. Anyway, he was pretty sure the answer was yes.

Removing the green seed cap from his shock of blond hair, he rubbed the ragged border between his neck and scalp. The wind blew across the patchworked fields, ringing across the broad, flat farms to the edge of the sky. The breeze smelled of turned earth and dry seed and fertilizer.

It smelled like something else too. Something sweet and sick all at once, like rat poison dipped in candy. He ran back and grabbed his shoes.

School, then, he decided. It was only one more day.

Besides. He had to talk to Wendy.



Continues...

Excerpted from The Mostly True Story of Jack by Barnhill, Kelly Copyright © 2011 by Barnhill, Kelly. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 9 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 9 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 24, 2011

    Highly Recommended

    I am an adult reader who is reading this book to screen it for an 11 year old reader. I bought it on my Nook, and I have to say that I am engrossed in the story and don't want to put it down. I will buy it for my great niece for sure!

    7 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 7, 2011

    Wow! So inventive. Held my attention cover to cover.

    Great read for adults AND kids - or better yet - as a family read-aloud. Recommend for older elementary/middle school ages.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 28, 2011

    Perfect book for you

    I got this book from my friend telling me to reaf it and say if itts worth reading. I read it in a night and loved it. I higly reccomed this book

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 3, 2013

    Odd but entertaining

    I was not sure where this book was going when I started reading it. Glad I stuck with it. I am sure mykids will enjoy reading this story.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 27, 2012

    Book

    This is a great book but it is kind of a dull but is a good book to read to family

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted September 13, 2012

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