CM . . . . Volume XXIII Number 14 . . . . December 9, 2016
So begins another "Jack" tale by noted Newfoundland comedian, writer, playwright and actor, Andy Jones. This is the fifth installment about Jack's raucous, unorthodox mishaps and missteps that turn into grand, unexpected adventures full of danger, mystery and mysticism, irony and a lot of fun. As in his previous escapades, such as Jack, the King of Ashes, Jack is a decidedly Newfoundland character, a fisherman through and through, but also a dabbler in the occult, the weird, the supernatural. It all comes naturally to him, too.
Jack's talent at cards wins him a lot of money, but one day he's challenged to a game by "a green man whose body is made of grass and leaves and moss and nettles; his head of lily pads, dandelions, pitcher plans and green wax beans. One of his eyes is a giant juniper berry; the other is a large green olive." Jack isn't fazed, but Greensleeves is a wily opponent. Jack finds himself drawn into the toughest game of his life with the highest stakes – his life.
Jones sends Jack to accomplish improbable tasks to save his life. Jack does so with swagger and a smile, on the way meeting improbable characters and learning from them, including giants and a cranky old lady with a Christmas pudding that rolls downhill. Newfoundland lore is full of fabulist and fantastic creatures, a legacy of three hundred years of isolation in tiny seaside villages, religion, superstition, long nights and heaping amounts of imagination.
Jones writes in the Newfoundland dialect ("Thass the one – He'll eat the head right off ya, startin at yer toes). The dialogue would work well in an oral presentation or as a readers' theatre project.
Darka Erdelji's swirling green and black brush strokes complement the supernatural, magical plot. Her tiny cartoons (a la New Yorker) on the side of the 9" x 9" bright white pages are interesting to study and add wry commentary to the telling of the tale.
Jack triumphs over Greensleeves; it's not an easy win, but it is thoroughly enjoyable for the reader. Children will be able to find much to laugh about in Jack's journey. They can learn a lot about imaginary tales and a lot about the Newfoundland people and culture through Jones's stories. Teachers can also use the story, itself, to foster student writing – there's no limit on imagination that can then be molded into a workable manuscript, as Jack and the Green Man exemplifies.
Harriet Zaidman is a teacher-librarian in Winnipeg, MB.
To comment on this title or this review, send mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.