CM . . . . Volume XXI Number 28 . . . . March 27, 2015
Jack, like many legendary Jacks before him, uses his determination and kind heart to lead him through an adventure. This predicament arises when Jack learns his grandmother's festive cupcakes will not make it to his cousin Erin's house in time for her birthday celebration. And, again, like many fairy tale heroes, this Jack does not think carefully about the dangers that could befall a young man venturing out in a perilous situation - in this case, a hurricane.
Joshua Goudie, the author, uses many of the conventional "tall tale" characteristics in this story: a heroic main character with a problem to solve, multiple instances of exaggeration, humorous situations, and plenty of action. These elements are entwined seamlessly in the plot, and the story unfolds with rising action and excitement that enhance the fun-filled escapade.
The illustrations in the story are exceptional - beautifully depicted in cartoon style with elements that not only enhance and illustrate the story, but they take it to the next level with the whimsical depictions of Jack's misinterpretations of the actions of the people he meets along the way during the storm. Craig Goudie, the illustrator, has added several characters and elements that are not mentioned directly in the text. These details and extra elements will be discovered by young audiences who will infuse their own creativity to enhance the story. Children will enjoy Jack's faithful sidekick, a Newfoundland dog that is not mentioned by name but accompanies Jack throughout his adventure. Children will also enjoy adding text to the end of the story (which concludes with one of Jack's grandmother's favourite phrases, "Oh dear!"). The final scenes are illustrated, but not narrated, and young children will delight in describing what happened.
The book also includes photographs and the author's description of Hurricane Igor's devastation and the ensuing community spirit that emerged in affected communities on the island portion of Newfoundland and Labrador.
The story does have some implausible elements that go beyond the limits of even a tall tale, and this reader feels that these detract from the story and are likely to be questioned by young readers. Jack leaves to deliver the cupcakes while his grandmother is out of the room, but the other community members and helpers that Jack encounters on the way to Erin's house allow him to venture off on his cupcake adventure with only a suggestion to turn around. The neighbours', firefighters', and military personnel's disregard for Jack's safety is not simply implausible; it undermines the story's theme of community engagement. Perhaps all these characters were mesmerized by the cupcakes Jack shares with them, or distracted by the work at hand in the hurricane, but this reader found these characters' inaction detracted from the overall plot.
In both text and illustration, Jack and the Hurricane depicts contemporary life on the island accurately and avoids common stereotypes so often found in picture books of Newfoundland and Labrador. For example, Jack's grandmother speaks in an authentic voice, using common local terminology appropriately and without falling into an unnecessary and exaggerated accent. The other characters' dialogue and the setting get equally appropriate treatment.
Created by a very talented father (illustrator) and son (author) team, Jack and the Hurricane is a funny story that this reader feels will be well-received by audiences throughout the country.
Beth Maddigan is Memorial University of Newfoundland's Education Librarian.
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