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  • The Mostly True Story of Jack
  • Kate Quealy-Gainer
Barnhill, Kelly. The Mostly True Story of Jack. Little, 2011. [323p]. ISBN 978-0-316-05670-0 $16.99 Reviewed from galleys R Gr. 4–7.

Twelve-year-old Jack has never been a fan of fairy tales, so it is with chagrin that he finds himself in the middle of one when his mother ships him off to spend the summer with estranged relatives in a small Iowa town. After spending much of his life ignored—even by his own parents—Jack is shocked when the people of Hazelwood not only notice him but also seem to expect some mighty big things of him: his uncle keeps going on about a magical Lady and Jack’s potential, his new friend Wendy looks at him like he is going to sprout corn out of his ears any minute; and the wealthiest man in town is intent on Jack’s demise. Indeed, even the land itself seems to be calling to him, and as he slowly begins to unravel the mysteries surrounding both his heritage and the town’s strange spate of missing children, he comes to realize he is connected to the town’s foundation—as either a savior or a sacrifice. Richly atmospheric, this folklorically flavored tale offers a strangely pleasing combination of midwestern charm and hauntingly creepy Tim Burton–like imagination. Barnhill reveals just enough of Hazelwood’s many secrets to keep the readers gripped, and the perfectly timed pacing makes for a quick and accessible read. Despite a touch of preachiness at the end, there is a wonderfully subversive element that runs through this tale, underscored by the bittersweet but utterly appropriate ending. While not quite as terrifying as Westall’s The Stones of Muncaster Cathedral (BCCB 4/93), this will still find an audience among fans of Gaiman’s Coraline (BCCB 11/02) and the like.



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