Just Like Jackie

Book review by
Joly Herman, Common Sense Media
Just Like Jackie Book Poster Image
Emotional tale of girl's struggle with her family history.

Parents say

age 10+
Based on 1 review

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Lots of specific information about cars and their repair -- Robbie describes a headlight change and a brake pad replacement in great detail. Maple syrup collection and preparation are also outlined in detail. Shows effects of dementia.

Positive Messages

Kindness is a thing that makes hurt go away. Learning to laugh can heal broken hearts. Do what you love and don't worry about what other people think. Everything, even a tree, has sweetness at its core.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Robbie's surrounded by supportive teachers, family friends, and some classmates. Her grandfather is her biggest supporter, but he struggles with dementia, which puts pressure on Robbie to do things 11-year-olds aren't meant to do, like keep track of her grandpa's sentences, where he puts his keys, or doing work on cars that she's capable of but not legally allowed to do. Bullies and kids who don't like Robbie make life difficult, but she feels whole as soon as she walks into her grandfather's garage. 

Violence

Robbie struggles to contain her desire to lash out violently against people she doesn't like. The book opens with her having given the class bully a bloody nose. She ridicules him for being a baby and doesn't have remorse for her actions until much later. She wants to do things to people like paste their mouths shut, chop up tables, see the bruises on a kid she's punched turn colors. Robbie's violent thoughts and behavior do serve a purpose: They're part of the story's moral core. How she deals with her feelings is her biggest challenge.

Sex
Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Just Like Jackie is a story about an 11-year-old girl named Robinson Hart who doesn't know her mother or father but is raised with her loving grandfather in Vermont. Her world is pretty diverse: She comes from a racially mixed family that she doesn't know much about; her grandpa's employee is a married gay man who's in the process of adopting a baby. Nevertheless, Robbie lashes out at school, where she feels misunderstood. She has violent thoughts and hits the class bully, giving him a bloody nose. The support system around her is strong, however, and she's ultimately given the care and support she needs to survive.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bybcseagle July 31, 2018

Wonderful story but too much language

This book has many wonderful messages, however I will not be able to give to my students because of the swearing. I love the characters and the love they have f... Continue reading

There aren't any reviews yet. Be the first to review this title.

What's the story?

In JUST LIKE JACKIE, it's maple tapping season, which means that Robinson Hart and her grandpa are going to  be splitting a lot of wood to ready for the syrup boiling. Robbie looks forward to this almost as much as she enjoys playing third base. But a few things are getting in the way. One, she's in trouble because her grandpa has to pick her up from school after she's punched Alex Carter (her class nemesis) in the nose so hard that he bleeds everywhere. Two, grandpa is forgetting where he's putting things like his tools and his flannel jacket. And three, Robinson has to finish a family tree project that's shaking her up pretty badly. Robbie's going to have to learn to keep her cool if she wants to avoid suspension, or worse. Luckily she's got some people who are willing to fight for her well-being and her future with her grandpa.

 

Is it any good?

This gripping emotional tale of a kid's struggle to figure out her family history packs a punch. In Just Like Jackie, author Lindsey Stoddard successfully gets into the head of an 11-year-old who's showing signs of cracking under pressure. Robbie's unique situation and sure voice takes the driver's seat right away. Her mettle, her determination, and her sheer uniqueness make her a fascinating, if a little frightening, heroine. She's a force. But she has to be -- her grandpa's getting mixed up more often, and Robbie's not always able to help him. The family tree project at school is hitting a serious nerve, and on top of it all, she's the only kid who stands up to the class bully. 

The boundary-busting role reversals and gender bending in this story are admirable, but can feel a touch over-the-top.Yet the story's moral is admirable: We come in all shapes, sizes, ages, and orientations. Stoddard drives home the point that humans, as unique as we are, work best as a cohesive group. Much like the maple trees that make up a forest in Vermont. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the role of the family tree in Just Like Jackie. What would your family tree look like? Lots of branches and roots? A split tree like Oscar's? Why is it so hard for Robbie to make her family tree?

  • Sports mean more to Robinson than they do to the average sports fan. She uses baseball stats to keep her temper in check. Do you have any media icons or sports heroes who help you through tough times? Who are they?

  • Robbie says that sometimes she thinks she's so messed up that people think she's a burden, or that they "might wish she belonged to somebody else." Feeling abandoned and out of place is really hard on her. How does she manage? What coping tools help her feel better? 

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