Summary and book reviews of The Mostly True Story of Jack by Kelly Barnhill

The Mostly True Story of Jack

by Kelly Barnhill

The Mostly True Story of Jack by Kelly Barnhill
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Aug 2011, 336 pages
    Paperback:
    Sep 2012, 352 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Tamara Smith

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About this Book

Book Summary

When Jack is sent to Hazelwood, Iowa, to live with his crazy aunt and uncle, he expects a summer of boredom. Little does he know that the people of Hazelwood have been waiting for him for a long time...

When he arrives, three astonishing things happen: First, he makes friends - not imaginary friends but actual friends. Second, he is beaten up by the town bully; the bullies at home always ignored him. Third, the richest man in town begins to plot Jack's imminent, and hopefully painful, demise. It's up to Jack to figure out why suddenly everyone cares so much about him. Back home he was practically, well, invisible.

The Mostly True Story of Jack is a tale of magic, friendship, and sacrifice. It's about things broken and things put back together. Above all, it's about finding a place to belong.

Chapter Three
Iowa

Jack sat in the backseat of a rental car, his sketch­ book open on his knees, drawing pictures of bells. His mother hadn't spoken to him in the last four hours, not that it mattered. What was there to say, really? He'd already argued and cried and reasoned, but the result was the same: His parents, after years of fighting, were finally calling it quits. Jack was to spend an entire summer in Iowa with relatives he did not know. He couldn't believe it.

Jack watched the passing farmland as it rippled and swelled like a green ocean stretching from the pavement to the sky. A darkened smudge appeared at the very end of the long, straight road. Jack squinted, trying to get a better look. There was something familiar about that, he thought, as the smudge slowly grew into the shape of a hill, though for the life of him he couldn't remember where - or whether - he'd ever seen it.

Jack closed his sketchbook with a firm slap and bound it tightly with a rubber band...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. Why does Jack spend the summer in Iowa? What's going on with his family that forces his move?


  2. Frankie, Wendy, Anders, and Clayton all notice that something Very Odd is going on. What does each character notice and how do they respond?


  3. Jack is not like most boys. What clues can you find that show the reader exactly how different Jack is?


  4. Why is the skateboard so important to Jack? What does he hope to gain by learning to ride it?


  5. Is there a difference between "brave" and "good"? What are some examples from the book where the characters had to be brave if they wanted to do good? Can you think of a real-world example of someone needing to be brave in order to do the right thing?


  6. Why do you think Jack hates fairy tales?


  7. ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Ultimately this story is about relationships - the true meanings of friendship and family - and the sacrifices people make in the name of love and connection. And Kelly Barnhill widens the definition of these relationships and the way they all come together to create community - friends and family, yes, but also animals, and the landscape. The Almost True Story of Jack is spooky, funny and, finally, heartwarming in its own amazing and strange way. It is a suspenseful read, great for anyone who wants a fast-paced, unusual mystery to solve.   (Reviewed by Tamara Smith).

Full Review (580 words).

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Media Reviews

The Los Angeles Times

There's a dry wit and playfulness to Barnhill's writing that recalls Lemony Snicket and Blue Balliett... a delightfully unusual gem.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review. Truly splendid... the ultimate page-turner.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Suspense builds steadily, with twists and surprises woven throughout, and friendship emerges as a powerful theme.... Barnhill creat[es] a provocative and highly original mystery.

YOYA

This delightful story will captivate readers with its blend of magic, mystery, and adventure.

Booklist

Starred Review. Wonderful in the best possible way: filled with wonders and magic, yes, but magic that is ancient, numinous, and tied to the natural world... Barnhill's first novel for children is a marvel of both plotting and characterization, and it provides a foundation for the omnipresent magic that elevates this title to the first rank of contemporary children's literature.

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Beyond the Book

The Funny, Frightening, Lyrical, Odd, and Very Talented Kelly Barnhill

Kelly Barnhill is a very cool person. I don't know her personally, but you can just tell about some people. Kelly Barnhill She is a mother of three, a teacher, and a writer (and probably a million other things too). She has written poetry and short stories for adults, non-fiction books for children and, now, her first middle grade debut novel, The Mostly True Story of Jack. As she has said, "I write fiction and nonfiction - things that are Literary and Speculative and Informative and Funny and Frightening and Lyrical and Odd. Sometimes, I do all of these things at once."

Kelly is a writer's writer. "...My life is built on books. I read books, and think about books, and talk about books. In my house, the books mingle, multiply and conquer. There...

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