When you’re the middle child in a household of seven girls, it takes a lot to get noticedbut Jacky Hart, the heroine of James Patterson’s lively new novel for young readers, Jacky Ha-Ha, is up for the challenge. A wisecracking, prank-loving free spirit who is equally adept at sassing teachers and putting bullies in their place, Jacky loves nothing more than performing in front of an audiencewhether it’s her beloved grandmother, Nonna, or a crowd that has formed to watch Jacky and her friends see if they can eat every kind of greasy food sold along the boardwalk of their seaside New Jersey town.Read More
Seventh grader Jacky Hart has been the class clown ever since classmates laughed at her stutter back in elementary school. "What's so wrong with wanting to be liked?" she wonders. Now "Jacky Ha-Ha" can't break out of her routine, even though her rudeness and pranks earn her numerous detentions. With her mother serving in Operation Desert Shield (the story is set on the Jersey Shore in 1990) and her father mysteriously absent most nights, Jacky is left without much guidance. Could a dynamic new English teacher help redirect Jacky's need to perform? The story is stuffed with page-turning pranks and social and family drama (Jacky is one of six sisters), and the swoopy b&w cartoons from Kerascoët, a pseudonym for French artists Marie Pommepuy and Sébastian Cosset, only add to Jacky's untamed energy. Framed as a successful comedy writer looking back on her wild 12th year, the novel is sure to amuse and encourage readers who don't have it all figured out just yet. Ages 8–12. Author's agent: (for Patterson) Robert Barnett, Williams & Connolly; (for Grabenstein) Eric Myers, Spieler Agency. Illustrator's agent: Kirsten Hall, Catbird Agency. (Mar.)
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"...Jacky is the best yet. Fun, smart, emotionally engaging, Jacky is a character that young readers will love spending time with."Kirkus Reviews
"Readers will find Jacky entertaining.... the art is playful and fun. This title is sure to have high circulation among fans of Patterson's previous works."
School Library Journal
"The story is stuffed with page-turning pranks, and the swoopy b&w cartoons from Kerascoet only add to Jacky's untamed energy.... The novel is sure to amuse and encourage readers who don't have it all figured out just yet."
"Smart, funny, and immensely likable, Jacky is a colorful narrator and an increasingly interesting character, and her struggles will strike a chord with many readers.... The many black-and-white cartoon-style drawings increase the book's appeal."Booklist
"James Patterson has figured out the formula for writing entertaining books for tween readers. Jacky is a wildly engaging character. [The story is] great fun." Parents' Choice
"Jacky is a genuinely likable and funny protagonist...Kerascoet's black and white illustrations are full of verve and energy, as cartoonish Jacky careens her way through life."BCCB
Gr 4–6—The jokes fall flat in this mediocre tale of family, middle school mishaps, and personal acceptance. Jacky recounts her life during the 1990s, when George H.W. Bush was president and Nintendo was popular. Jacky Hart, the fourth of six sisters, uses her quick wit to disguise her speech impediment. Although she makes herself a promise to behave differently in middle school, she unfortunately ends up, once again, being the class clown. This stems from her home life. There, she needs to be a personal cheerleader to her sisters, as their father is mysteriously missing during family dinners and their mother is off serving in Operation Desert Shield. When Jacky finds herself in big trouble for being a jokester, Mrs. O'Mara, a new English teacher, helps her realize that she has talent far beyond collecting detentions. Readers will find Jacky entertaining, but her character is ultimately unoriginal. Cartoon illustrations are interspersed throughout the novel, similar to those in Patterson's I Funny (Little, Brown, 2013) and Rachel Renee Russell's "Dork Diaries" series (S. & S.). While the art is playful and fun to look at, it never feels essential to the text. Readers may find Jacky's grown-up narration confusing, as she recounts her life as a middle schooler. The ending is unrealistic. VERDICT Despite its many shortcomings, this title is sure to have high circulation among fans of Patterson's previous works.—Jessica Bratt, Grand Rapids Public Library, Grand Rapids, MI
A precocious seventh-grader tries to turn over a new leaf and end her term as the class clown. It's New Jersey, 1990, and Jacky Hart is the middle child in a family with six other girls. Attention is hard to come by, but Jacky has earned her fair share by being the endlessly funny member of her large, white family. Unfortunately, Jacky's teachers do not appreciate this goofball attitude. Jacky joins the school play to channel her talents creatively and discovers a passion for performing, but not all is well. Jacky's mother is overseas as a citizen soldier in the run-up to the first Gulf War, and her lifeguard father is spending way too much time with an attractive female fellow lifeguard. A lot of other things happen too, but this is typical for Patterson. His novels are made or broken not by their plots but by their lead characters, and Jacky is the best yet. Fun, smart, emotionally engaging, Jacky is a character that young readers will love spending time with. Sure, the novel could lose about 100 pages and still tell the same story, but Jacky and her sisters are so endearing readers won't feel the effects of the chubby second and third acts until long after finishing the book, and few will really care. Pop-culture references from the '90s and the 2010s (for comparison) abound. A typical Patterson plot significantly elevated by its title character. (Historical fiction. 10-12)