Jack Plank Tells Tales



An ex-pirate spins captivating yarns.

What parents need to know

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.

Not applicable

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.

Kids say

Not yet rated
Review this title!

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.

Families can talk 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.

Book details

Author:Natalie Babbitt
Illustrator:Natalie Babbitt
Genre:Literary Fiction
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Scholastic Inc.
Publication date:May 1, 2007
Number of pages:144
Read aloud:8
Read alone:8

This review of Jack Plank Tells Tales was written by

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.


Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

Find out more

Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

Find out more

About our buy links

When you use our links to make a purchase, Common Sense Media earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes. As a nonprofit organization, these funds help us continue providing independent, ad-free services for educators, families, and kids while the price you pay remains the same. Thank you for your support.
Read more

See more about how we rate and review.

About Our Rating System

The age displayed for each title is the minimum one for which it's developmentally appropriate. We recently updated all of our reviews to show only this age, rather than the multi-color "slider." Get more information about our ratings.

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

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 and figure out what else he should do. So the story is less about pillaging and more about finding out how people fit in. The book has several funny parts. A 9-year-old boy really enjoyed this, more than he thought. The language is not too difficult
What other families should know
Educational value
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 kids with literary or artistic interests.


Did our review help you make an informed decision about this product?

Star Wars Guide