Heads or Tails by Jack Gantos
Stories from the Sixth Grade (Jack Henry Adventures)

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From the Newbery Medal–winning author of Dead End in Norvelt, eight more hysterical semi-autobiographical Jack Henry stories about a sixth grader’s trials and tribulations

Jack’s life is a crazy roller-coaster ride. At his fifth school in six years, he has a crackpot teacher who won’t give him a break about his lousy handwriting and a secret crush who wants to be a policewoman. At home, he has a pesky little brother with a knack for getting hurt whenever Jack’s supposed to be looking after him, a terror for an older sister, all sorts of weird neighbors, and, last but not least, ferocious alligators in the canal behind his house.

Writing in his diary about his good days and bad days is one way Jack survives his up-and-down year. But he’s also a kid who knows that life can go any which way at any given moment.

He might as well flip a coin: heads he wins, tails he loses. What will turn up next?


About Jack Gantos

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Jack Gantos has written books for people of all ages, from picture books and middle-grade fiction to novels for young adults and adults. His works include Hole in My Life, a memoir that won the Michael L. Printz and Robert F. Sibert Honors, Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key, a National Book Award Finalist, Joey Pigza Loses Control, a Newbery Honor book, and Dead End in Norvelt, winner of the Newbery Medal and the Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction. Jack was raised in Norvelt, Pennsylvania, and when he was seven, his family moved to Barbados. He attended British schools, where there was much emphasis on reading and writing, and teachers made learning a lot of fun. When the family moved to south Florida, he found his new classmates uninterested in their studies, and his teachers spent most of their time disciplining students. Jack retreated to an abandoned bookmobile (three flat tires and empty of books) parked out behind the sandy ball field, and read for most of the day. The seeds for Jack's writing career were planted in sixth grade, when he read his sister's diary and decided he could write better than she could. He begged his mother for a diary and began to collect anecdotes he overheard at school, mostly from standing outside the teachers' lounge and listening to their lunchtime conversations. Later, he incorporated many of these anecdotes into stories. While in college, he and an illustrator friend, Nicole Rubel, began working on picture books. After a series of well-deserved rejections, they published their first book, Rotten Ralph, in 1976. It was a success and the beginning of Jack's career as a professional writer. Jack continued to write children's books and began to teach courses in children's book writing and children's literature. He developed the master's degree program in children's book writing at Emerson College and the Vermont College M.F.A. program for children's book writers. He now devotes his time to writing books and educational speaking. He lives with his family in Boston, Massachusetts.
Published June 1, 1994 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR). 164 pages
Genres: Humor & Entertainment, Children's Books, Literature & Fiction. Fiction

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Though Jack has lived in nine houses and gone to five schools in his young life, three things have remained constant: a stable family, his father's inability to find a permanent job--and The Sound of Music, playing at the local drive-in since he moved to his Fort Lauderdale neighborhood.

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Publishers Weekly

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The author of the offbeat Rotten Ralph picture books makes an auspicious foray into new ground with this semi-autobiographical, wholly engaging novel. His narrator, Jack, travels through the often poi

May 30 1994 | Read Full Review of Heads or Tails: Stories from ...

Publishers Weekly

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when he can think of nothing to write, he begins to pack the diary with ``stuff''--bugs, baseball cards, stamps and so on--but he concludes, ``I was covering over the empty white space of the pages in the same way I covered my eyes with my hands when I watched a monster movie.'' A bittersweet res...

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