A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
The novel gives specific examples of differences in technology now versus back in the '90s, when the story takes place (e.g., the Sony Walkman). It also discusses pop culture references and items, aligning them with today's equivalent. There is also discussion of Shakespeare and Shakespearean insults, the inner workings of a play, and general life lessons like taking responsibility when you've made a mistake.
Things go better with teamwork. It's good to do what you can to help out your family, from doing chores to earning money at a job. Strong messages about friendship, loyalty, and taking responsibility for your mistakes, and being prepared rather than just winging it.
Positive Role Models
The kids are kind, supportive, and willing to tell each other the truth when someone's messing up big time. The adults are available when the kids need them, but also ready to let the kids take the lead and learn. The adults support the kids when they can't handle things, but allow them to try to resolve the situation on their own.
Violence & Scariness
There are small threats of violence from bullies, but nothing happens. A kid's mother has died before we meet him in the book, and his father is a soldier serving in the Gulf War. There's worry about soldiers overseas in the war.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Lots of summer crushes, swooning, and confusing feelings typical of 12- to 16-year-olds. A few quick kisses.
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There is name-calling, such as "bubblebutt." And one teen makes a big deal about the race of a character acting in a Shakespeare play, saying essentially that blacks wouldn't have been onstage in that era. In a separate incident, someone tells a black character to go back to Harlem.
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Products & Purchases
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Walkman, New Kids on the Block, Justin Bieber, Icee, MC Hammer -- mainly used to set the scene of what was popular in the '90s as compared with now.
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that New York Times best-seller Jacky Ha-Ha: My Life Is a Joke is a follow-up to James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein's Jacky Ha-Ha and covers a 12-year-old's summer adventures in the 1990s. Popular '90s products and pop culture references are featured alongside more about Shakespeare. There are lots of summer crushes, as well as swooning and confusing feelings typical of 12- to 16-year-olds, and a few quick kisses but nothing heavy. A kid's mother has died before we meet him in the book. His father is a soldier serving in the Gulf War. Parents should be ready to discuss the Gulf War, older technology, crushes, and confronting a friend you think is doing something bad.
Is It Any Good?
Funny, touching, and timely, despite taking place in the past, this lively chapter book will keep readers laughing and engaged from the first page. The quick pacing and hilarious drawings put an emphasis on Jacky's crazy summer. Authors James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein do an excellent job of balancing the funny moments with the poignant ones, never letting the plot get bogged down in crush madness. The adults in the book are caring enough that the kids know they can seek them out for guidance, but they also allow the kids enough room to learn and make mistakes.
Readers and parents alike will enjoy the lessons, flashbacks, and fun of Jacky Ha-Ha: My Life Is a Joke. It definitely lives up to the hijinks and lessons of the first book, even if it's a bit lighter in subject matter.
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