by Lisa Doan
illustrated by Ivica Stevanovic
Darby Creek 1/01/2014
Age 7 to 12 152 pages
“Jack’s parents have been chased out of Tokyo, gone broke in Greece, and hosted Nairobi’s least successful safari. Next they’re taking Jack on a Caribbean vacation—whether Jack wants to go or not. The Berensons are about to start a snorkeling business. It’s their latest get-rich-quick scheme. With these experienced world travelers at the helm, what could go wrong?
Jack’s used to staying indoors and not taking chances. When his parents take him out on the water, he ends up shipwrecked. Now Jack has to survive on a tropical island . . . and avoid a whale shark that’s swimming near the beach.”
“Jack’s parents had finally returned from the heart of the Amazon. They stood at the front door, browned and emaciated.”
Eleven-year-old Jack Berenson has lived most of his life indoors with his Aunt Julia, reading or playing video games . . . until a bus runs over Aunt Julia. With no other relatives, Jack must go with his parents. Richard and Claire Berenson have spent their lives traveling around the world chasing one get-rich-quick scheme to another. They are not rich. School starts soon and Jack wants to be there. Instead, his parents take him to an “undiscovered” Caribbean Island with plans to start a “lucrative” snorkeling business. They have a “master plan” which they follow, even after a failure. The Berensons decided a long time ago that nothing could go wrong if you have a master plan. Each time I say “Berenson” I can’t help but think of the bears and for some reason, it makes me laugh.
Jack’s parents are unreliable and self-interested to the point they often forget about Jack. They also have no idea how to be a parent or care for a child. The two act as if Jack is an adult as capable as they . . . well, as capable as most any adult. During the first trip out in the “new boat” Jack is expected to keep the skiff following his snorkeling parents, but instead the skiff runs out of gas, stranding Jack and a bird named Loco on an uninhibited island. His parents search for him—a couple of days later, but get distracted by some shiny thing or another and forget why they went out in the boat.
Jack the Castaway will entertain kids with laughs and twists. Most of the laughs come from dad, who makes daffy comments. Like when Jack tells his parents to enroll him in school.
“ . . . We’ll figure out this homeschooling thingy as soon as we get the business sorted out.” (said Mom)
“This is more than a thingy,” Jack said. “ . . . You would both be horrible at homeschooling. I doubt you’d even check my homework.”
His dad laughed. “We’d never give you homework.”
The illustrations pop up every so often and I wish there were more. The black and whites illustrations capture the action of the moment perfectly. Stevenovic creates two parents who never had many worries and see the sky with a permanent rainbow. Jack is more realistic and his face easily transmits his current worries. Jack the Castaway flows well from one situation to another in realistic fashion. I think reluctant readers would like the story. The chapters are short and there are only a total of 143 story pages. I wish the author had included a short glimpse into book #2: Jack and the Wild Life.
Jack’s situation is just what many kids think they want. Living in one of the best places in the world, swimming every day, doing what you want, when you want, without restrictions, and no homework. Heck, no school. To kids, Jack is the nerd that wants school and homework. But, by stories end, Jack won’t be thought of as that nerd. He survives being stranded on an island for several days—without eating the bird—and finds a way to get his parents to agree to a permanent home and some “family rules.” As the story ends, all is hopeful for the survival of the Berenson clan . . . until the next get-rich-quick scheme. Hold on, Jack!
THE BERENSON SCHEMES #1: JACK THE CASTAWAY. Text copyright (2014 by Lisa Doan. Illustrations copyright © 2014 by Lerner Publishing Group, Inc. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Darby Creek, Minnesota, MN.
Learn more about The Berenson Schemes series HERE.
Also by Lisa Doan
Also by Ivica Stevanovic