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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What 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.
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What's the story?
Jacky is a master of turning things that embarrass and upset her into jokes that keep the whole crowd laughing. Being the class clown is fun -- except when it earns you 10 detentions on the first day of school. With all that's going on -- her mom is stationed overseas in anticipation of war, her is dad spending long nights with a cute lifeguard, and she has never-ending issues at school -- Jacky is starting to realize she can't turn the jokes off long enough to deal with real life. Can this jokester learn how to cope, or will her nickname "Jacky Ha-Ha" and her stutter follow her forever?
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.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about class clowns. How do media portrayals of class clowns and their antics compare with how class clowns affect people in real life? Have you ever made a joke at the expense of a friend's feelings? How did it make you feel?
How do the families in this book compare with families on your favorite TV shows? Which family portrayal is more realistic? How do most TV shows portray sibling and parent relationships?
How does Jacky channel her high energy into positive outlets? In what positive ways do you choose to share your passions?
- Authors: James Patterson, Chris Grabenstein
- Illustrator: Kerascoët
- Genre: Coming of Age
- Topics: Adventures, Brothers and Sisters, Middle School
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: jimmy patterson imprint
- Publication date: March 21, 2016
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 9 - 12
- Number of pages: 384
- Available on: Paperback, Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
Themes & Topics
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For kids who love stories about friendship and middle school
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.