A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
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.
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
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 & Scariness
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.
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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.
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.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.