Quill & Quire: This adventurous debut from Ottawa author Jenn Kelly has a perfectly silly spirit that helps put across the admirable lesson learned by its young protagonist, a lonely, book-loving boy with far less self-confidence than he ought to have.
Ten-and-a-half-year-old Jackson Jones is passionate about many things, from playing baseball to writing his own stories, but he longs to make some friends and be the hero in his own adventure. Then one night, while his Great Aunt Harriet sleeps in the bottom bunk during the Jones family reunion, Jackson finds himself tangled up in an adventure when he falls out of bed and into a hidden land that exists – of all places – inside his aunt’s impossibly big, grey-blue hairdo.Jackson meets Meeka the elf, his tour guide and fast friend, who shows him the many rooms tucked away in this secret place. From the Book Room, where he encounters a blank book titled How to Be Yourself, to a hallway full of magical mirrors that show his potential future achievements, Jackson comes to realize that self-confidence will go a long way in helping him find success.Although it’s a joy to hear young Jackson mention the authors he admires (from C.S. Lewis to Lemony Snicket), and to see him take a literal and metaphorical leap of faith to protect his new friend Meeka, the problem with Jackson Jones is that our young hero is given relatively little external conflict to match the internal conflict he faces. The book has no villain and no ultimate goal for Jackson to accomplish. The people he meets teach him important lessons about faith and love, but the book lacks the suspense and danger that would make the payoff more rewarding. (Though the book is published by the kidlit imprint of Christian publishing house Zondervan, its religious overtones are fairly muted and subtle.)
Despite its shortcomings, and a set of lacklustre illustrations, Jackson Jones still offers a worthy tale about a boy who learns how to believe in himself. The author’s self-referential, outgoing sense of humour will also appeal to young readers, many of whom will see themselves in Jackson.
Kirkus: In this absurd adventure, insecure sixth grader Jackson falls into his Great Aunt Harriett’s enormous hair. Inside that hair is a whole world, where Jackson meets an elf named Meeka. Meeka insists on taking Jackson on what she calls the Author’s tour. Extreme wackiness ensues, during which Jackson meets two significant characters. The first is Eleissa, who explains to Jackson that his life is not random, that the Author created him and wrote his story. The second is Josh the Page, whose job is to help people find their stories. He leads Jackson to the river’s edge and instructs him to find his stone. Jackson has to resist all the stones inscribed with negative messages to find the ones that are truly calling out to him. (Fiction. 8-12)
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Reviews of not-yet-released “Jackson Jones: the Tale of a Boy, a Troll and a Rather Large Chicken”!