Jack Plank Tells Tales

Book review by
Ellen Dendy, Common Sense Media
Jack Plank Tells Tales Book Poster Image
An ex-pirate spins captivating yarns.

Parents say

age 7+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

age 6+
Based on 1 review

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Positive Messages

The usual pirate deeds, including thievery and murder, are not condoned, and the pirates show their gentler sides often enough. Also, Jack's new friends try to help him find a job.

Violence & Scariness

No graphic descriptions of violence, but there are mentions of pirate acts such as shootings and stabbings and a hand that gets chopped off.


What parents need to know

Parents need to know that mentions of the pirates' crimes and nasty habits are minimal, and a few scenes show their gentler sides. References to violence are non-graphic and brief, including scenes in which a pirate captain threatens to shoot one of his cowardly crewmen, treasure hunters are found stabbed, and an ancient Egyptian king gets his hand chopped off. In one tale a girl in her early teens gets married, but this fits the 18th-century Caribbean setting. Pirates drink rum and beer.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 10-year-old Written byBlueJade July 16, 2009

Great twist on pirate stories

This book was on an assigned reading list for fourth and fifth graders. It was not a typical pirate book, as the main character wants to stop being a pirate an... Continue reading
Parent of a 6 and 8-year-old Written bypeony April 9, 2008

mild pirate tales

Fairly restrained, non-graphic pirate stories, so it's okay for younger kids (7+).

The resolution of Jack Plank's future is likely affirming for ki... Continue reading
Kid, 11 years old July 5, 2018

I guess it might be better for younger kids

I thought Jack Plank Tells Tales was very boring and was the only book I didn't like enough to not finish it

What's the story?

Pirate Jack Plank is let go from the only job he's ever known. Left in Jamaica with a small bag of gold coins (so he can get a fresh start), Jack finds shelter in a boarding house, where he befriends owner Mrs. DelFresno, her daughter Nina, and the other boarders. Nina and the other boarders try to help Jack find a new profession, but each time someone suggests a job Jack responds with one of his many high-seas adventure stories.

Jack's pirate stories whisk Mrs. DelFresno, Nina, and the other boarders away to exotic tropical beaches and dark angry seas -- places where magic is possible and danger lurks around every corner.

\ \ Through a process of elimination and careful evaluation of Jack's talents, the group eventually comes up with the perfect job for their highly entertaining friend.

Is it any good?

Award-winning author Natalie Babbitt (Tuck Everlasting) pays tribute to the art of storytelling in this engaging story about Jack Plank, a recently laid-off pirate. Jack's career crisis serves as a framework for eight captivating and highly imaginative pirate stories that are just plain fun to read and tailor-made for group storytelling. And Babbitt's old-fashioned, hand-drawn illustrations match the story's 18th-century setting perfectly.

Because the pirate stories are tame, JACK PLANK TELLS TALES is a great choice for little ones who are interested in pirates but are too young or sensitive for more graphic "crimes on the high seas" stories. A mix of mystery, magic, suspense, and surprise, Babbitt's pirate tales veer away from standard fare in their sheer creativity.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about which stories they enjoyed the most and why. Do you think Jack's stories were true? If not, how do you think Jack came up with them? Can you come up with your own stories that incorporate mysteries and magic? Families can also use this as a starting point to learn more about and enjoy the art of storytelling.

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