Jack Adrift by Jack Gantos
Fourth Grade Without a Clue (Jack Henry)

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Synopsis

From the Newbery Medal–winning author of Dead End in Norvelt, eight side-splitting stories about a boy who is doing his best to keep his head above water


As the Henry family sets sail for a new life on Cape Hatteras, fourth-grader Jack is struggling to chart a course between his parents’ contradictory advice on making friends and influencing people. Just tell people what they want to hear, Dad advises. Just tell the truth, Mom cautions. Jack finds there are no easy answers as he drifts through his crazy school year, falling desperately in love with his young teacher, getting suckered into becoming a bad-behavior spy for the principal, and being forced to make a presentable pet out of a duck with backward feet. Indeed, with an airheaded, air-guitar-playing neighbor the closest thing to a friend, and a judgmental older sister his relentless enemy, it’s all he can do to stay afloat.

This colorful and comic new collection of interrelated stories featuring the author’s hapless alter ego is the first of five books in the Jack Henry series, praised by Booklist for their “hilarious, exquisitely painful, and utterly on-target depiction” of a boy’s life. 

 

 

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 August 11, 2005 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR). 208 pages
Genres: Humor & Entertainment, Children's Books, Literature & Fiction, Education & Reference. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Jack Adrift

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on the trip to the vet, Jack's father suggests tying the dog to the car, like a dead deer, in case its bladder lets go (it's not the first time the dog's bodily functions are discussed).

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Rubel’s bright, sharp cartoons provide the hilarity, depicting Ralph’s goofy expressions as he reluctantly performs his duties, including substituting for the “mighty flying squirrel” mascot, all the while imagining himself a hero and a media darling.

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He’s a new man with a new plan, even a new name: Charles Heinz, lottery winner and entrepreneur.

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Rotten Ralph (Rotten Ralph’s Rotten Romance, 1997, etc.) returns in a ninth adventure, afraid of losing Sarah’s attention and affection when she starts school.

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Akin to Frankenstein, Dracula and Poe’s stories in theme, tone and voice, this offering explores such philosophical issues as nature versus nurture, free will and predetermination, mortality immortality and rebirth, in a totally engaging, intelligently written work guaranteed to either entrance o...

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Now the irrepressible Ralph has moved on to “Rotten Ralph Rotten Readers” in this upper-level easy reader with an Egyptian theme that will dovetail nicely into first- and second-grade classrooms studying ancient Egypt.

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But just as he's discovering that all the namby-pamby presents are Percy's, a little girl comes to the door: Percy's owner, come to take him home.

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As if Joey didn’t get into enough trouble in his unforgettable debut, Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key (1998), Gantos has him wig out again in this sad, scary, blackly funny sequel.

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He mixes with the undertaker’s daughter, a band of Hell’s Angels out to exact fiery revenge for a member flattened in town by a truck and, especially, with arthritic neighbor Miss Volker, for whom he furnishes the “hired hands” that transcribe what becomes a series of impassioned obituaries for t...

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Presumably (hopefully?) the truth mostly ends there, because Jackie's summer of 1962 begins badly: plagued by frequent and explosive nosebleeds, Jackie is assigned to take dictation for the arthritic obituary writer, Miss Volker, and kept alarmingly busy by elderly residents dying in rapid succes...

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The hero resorts to cheating, but, by the end of this Rotten Ralph Rotten Reader, he repents, returns his ill-gotten booty and wins a prize the right way.

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Gantos's attempt to combine a raw prison novel with a sly send-up of the Elvis cult doesn't always work, but when it does, this first adult novel from a much-published YA and children's-book writer (Heads and Tails, etc.) is both compelling and very funny.

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For kids anxious about a trip to the doctor, their favorite feline may offer some assistance, in Rotten Ralph Feels Rotten: A Rotten Ralph Rotten Reader by Jack Gantos, illus.

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Knowing that the narrator is destined to land in jail keeps suspense at a high pitch, but this book's remarkable achievement is the multiple points of view that emerge, as experiences force a fledgling writer to continually revise his perspective of himself and the world around him.

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Fans of Gantos's irrepressible Ralph who are ready to graduate from picture books will eagerly leap into this early chapter book, the first installment of the Rotten Ralph Rotten Reader series.

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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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Walker, a pensive loner, avoids confrontation as much as possible-until the son of a fundamentalist preacher accuses him of being gay.

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Jack Gantos continues the Jack Henry Books (Jack on the Tracks;

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Reader Rating for Jack Adrift
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