Mighty Jack by Ben Hatke
Mighty Jack by Ben Hatke (Published September 2016)
Confession: I had never read a graphic novel until I was an adult. Gasp! But I’m sure many of you are in the same boat. There just weren’t as many around—and especially as I grew up as one of three daughters from a more or less traditional Asian family, there weren’t any brought to my house. While we’re at it, despite what you may think with all the photographs on this site, I didn’t grow up with Lego either. I played with them at my cousins’ house (boys) but we didn’t have any at home.
So it was with a bit of delight when my husband first purchased Mini-Me Bookworm her first graphic novel (AKA comic book as my mom insists they are called), Owly by Andy Runton. Mini-Me adored Owly and it was a great pre-reader as (obviously) there are many pictures. Owly in particular could be read all on her own, which helps boost a love of books for those little ones struggling to read. And, while Mini-Me first read Owly at age 3, it really can be enjoyed by 4, 5, 6 year olds. I think Mini-Me would enjoy it now at age 10. (In fact I’m pretty sure I saw here perusing it fairly recently. See a book, read a book.)
Now that we’ve been through several other graphic novel series in this house, we were very excited to receive Mighty Jack in the mail on its release day earlier this month. (Not the least because Ben Hatke also wrote the beloved Zita the Space Girl Series, please see my review of his Nobody Likes a Goblin for Little Lion’s Zita costume) Mighty Jack is Hatke’s take on the classic Jack and the beanstalk fairy tale. There are many new revisions of classic fairy tales, but Mighty Jack is exceptionally charming.
I love the fact that the book features a character who happens to have autism (Jack’s younger sister, Maddie) without autism being the main focus of the story. I love the way that it comes about for Jack to buy those beans. Jack is a very caring older brother with a lot on his shoulders—the care of Maddie falls to him over the summer as his single mom is working hard for them. And, of course, I love that Piper from Zita the Spacegirl makes a cameo appearance. It makes me wonder about his motivations….
Aside from the wonderful storyline, Hatke’s illustrations are engaging and at times comical. Who doesn’t enjoy watching onion guys walk around? Or seeing a plant hand throw clods of dirt? The whimsical (and menacing) garden that grows from the special seeds that Jack purchases is a delight to the imagination. Even if I’m shivering thinking about those black ones.
And dragons? Yeah, I’m pretty sure we’ve established that we’re fans of dragons in this house. My only complaint? Part two is not out yet! (Especially as he admittedly left us at a pretty big cliffhanger.....)
Rating: Graphic novels should always be on the bottom shelf. Period. Buy this one for sure.
Mini-Me Bookworm: I really like this book and anyone who is a fan of the fairytale, Jack and Beanstalk, will really like it because it's not the same story but it has the same idea. Buy It.
Little Lion Bookworm: Buy it! It is a great gardening book for kids. (LOL)
Below are our favorite spreads from Mighty Jack (Dr Bookworm, Mr Bookworm, Little Lion and Mini Me)
Side note: A teaching point for me as a mom (and as a physician)
LL has been curious about her sister, Macy, who passed away as a baby. I talk about Macy in a previous post regarding Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness month. LL was asking about something Macy would possibly say. Macy had trisomy 18 and even if she didn’t have complicated heart disease and a diaphragmatic hernia, she likely would have had some developmental delays.
Me: I don’t think Macy would talk, honey.
LL: Why not?
Me: She might not have ever learned how.
LL: Would she not talk a lot like Maddie?
Me: Who’s Maddie?
LL: You know? From Mighty Jack!
It took me a moment to realize that she was equating Trisomy 18 with autism in the way that six year olds who are not exposed to many kids who are not ‘typical’ would. She goes to a private school. If there are kids with autism there, they are all high-functioning and without speech delay or speech phobias. Something for me to ponder as I have worked with many kids with multiple medically complicated issues and a huge range of kids with autism. This is something that I clearly need to talk more about with my children, even though Mini-Me and I have had many similar discussions about Macy and different capabilities for different people. She and I have also had discussions about inclusion and being kind and making sure friends don’t feel left out. Little Lion and I are just starting those discussions.
It’s a great topic to bring up with your kids, not just about the kids who are feeling left out at school, but also about kids who may feel left out because they don’t have the same social skills or abilities. And, believe me, even though I’m a pediatrician, I had a hard time finding the right words to explain autism to Little Lion.
One dad posted about this in a FB post that went viral, that is a wonderful reminder to all of us to spread awareness, especially to our own little ones.