The Book That Jack Wrote

Common Sense Media says

An artistically splendid, but dark, circular tale.





What parents need to know

Violence & scariness

Each character gets smooshed, tossed, pushed, or frightened.

Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this parody has the classical and fun circular motif and has a dark, surreal touch. The writing is jocular, if a bit snickery.

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What's the story?

Jon Scieszka and Daniel Adel take "The House That Jack Built" and transform it into a dark, if artistically splendid, circular tale with the surrealist's odd touch here and there. Cheeky fun for more advanced readers--lots of literary references and sophisticated sight gags here--though they might, unfortunately, feel they're beyond a nursery-rhyme remake.

Is it any good?


Never one to leave anything well enough alone, Jon Scieszka puts a tack on the chair where the nursery rhyme "The House That Jack Built" heretofore comfortably sat. Why, Scieszka seems to wonder, settle for singsong when a little mayhem enlivens the proceedings? But parody ought to choose its targets carefully, and this one sure feels underage.

Most fun here is unraveling the time-space reversals at work. Why is the baby humming a tune wearing a pie for a hat, and what got him so pumped as to toss the cow sailing over the moon? Daniel Adel's paintings are full of Rembrandt light and rich, rich color. The frames painted around the artwork give the impression of deep-dish pies, still hot and ready for the introduction of a fork.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about parody. What does this book parody? Is it funny, or just weird? What other parodies have you read or watched?

Book details

Author:Jon Scieszka
Illustrator:Daniel Adel
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Penguin Group
Publication date:January 1, 1994
Number of pages:32

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  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
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  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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