A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
The book subtly gives kids coping tools for dealing with their feelings and ideas about positive outlets for their creative energy.
Great messages about family support, being true to who you are, and coping through trials and tragedy. Even though family members fight, they still love one another. Sometimes talking through what's bothering you is better than trying to laugh it off.
Positive Role Models
Jacky's sisters, best friend, and several teachers help her use her comedic powers for good. Kids provide a supportive base and different perspectives for Jacky. Various adults offer Jacky support and guidance as she sorts out her feelings, without solving her problems for her.
Violence & Scariness
It's the 1990s, and there's discussion of the impending first Gulf War and the possibility of soldiers being killed in the fighting. There's also concern about the use of chemical weapons being used on American troops. It's mentioned that a former officer left the police force after being shot.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Typical boy-girl dating references for older characters. A concern that a parent may be having an affair with a coworker. Two married people kiss for an extended period of time, and a pair of teens kiss quickly at the end of a date.
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Mild name-calling, including "bubblebutt" and "ringworm."
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Jacky Ha-Ha, by James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein, is a mild coming-of-age novel with the dynamic 12-year-old class clown Jacky, the fourth of six sisters, as its driving force. Set in 1990 New Jersey, the book explores family and friendship problems including a kid's suspicion that a father may be having an affair, a mother who's a Marine serving in the Middle East during the lead-up to the first Gulf War, and the death of a family member.
Is It Any Good?
A strong female protagonist, realistic characters, and a balanced approach to middle school life make this book a winner. Kids will easily fall in love with brave Jacky, not only because she's funny but also because she's super smart and insightful. It's that insight about everyone (but herself) that makes Jacky such a dynamic character. Authors James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein do a fantastic job of creating middle school characters who display depth and humanity. There is no mean-girls clique to triumph over -- just very real problems that kids face every day. It's also nice that there are positive adult role models to help Jacky find her way and work out her problems.
The black-and-white cartoon illustrations by Kerascoet (two French illustrators using a joint pen name) bring Jacky's adventures to life with great energy and are a welcome addition to the story.
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