Written by James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein
Illustrated by Kerascoёt*
Jimmy Patterson Books 3/21/2016
380 pages Ages 8—12
“Hey, bet I can make you laugh!
“With a name like Jacky Ha-Ha, that’s what I was born to do! You could say I am an expert on wisecracks, pranks, gags, and anything else that’ll bring on the chuckles.
“But this story is about more than just being funny. Sometimes when I’m cracking jokes, I’m just trying to forget that my mom’s serving in the war far away. Or that my dad’s hardly ever home, leaving me and my six sisters alone a lot. And let’s not forget how my awful stutter pops out at the worst possible times.
“But despite all that, I promise I’ll still make you laugh . . . or my name isn’t Jacky Ha-Ha!” [inside jacket]
Atop the Ferris wheel on the Seaside Heights boardwalk, Jacky vows this school year will be the year she fulfills her “tremendous potential.” This year, the girl known as Jacky Ha-Ha (after introducing herself year go in preschool as “Jacky Ha-Ha-Ha-Ha-Ha-Hart,” thank to a nervous stutter), will cease being the class-clown and the school prankster. But with a nickname like that, how can you not be a clown, a cut-up, a prankster? Plus, Jacky still has that stress-related stutter.
Jacky’s vow dies hard, and she quickly racks up twenty detentions. The vice-principal trades those detentions for Jacky’s participation in two major events: the school musical and participation on the oratorical team. Thanks to new teacher and former actor, Ms. O’Mara, Jacky has the potential to succeed. But then her dad stops making it home for dinner, or most bedtimes (he is a Jersey shore lifeguard spending too much time with a pretty co-worker), mom is in Saudi Arabia with her marine unit, big sister Sydney is flunky out of Princeton, and Nonna (grandmother) becomes critically ill.
Will Jacky make it through the play and the speech? Or will this school year be a year like all the rest, with Jacky Ha-Ha clowning around instead of fulfilling her tremendous potential? With so much going on, this may become the most difficult year of young Jacky’s young life.
Jacky Ha-Ha starts out slow. The first eight chapters break a golden rule by telling most of the story rather than showing it. The writing is dry and boring. Once the school year actually begins, the writing picks up, as does the flow. In addition, there are black and white illustrations that enhance the reading and providing additional humor. I think young middle grade girls will love Jacky Ha-Ha. Jacky is a fun character with loads of energy and smarts—maybe too smart at times, but this only adds to the fun of Jacky Ha-Ha’s world.
Told from adult Jacky Hart’s perspective of her twelfth year (in 1990), this book is a gift to her two daughters “pimples and all.” Even with this precursor, don’t expect much more than typical middle grade humor, similar to most of Patterson’s middle grade fair: enjoyable but not special. I do like Patterson making his way into kids’ literature. Parents hooked on his adult fair will surely be anxious to introduce their kids to a favorite author. Anything that gets kids reading is a good thing.
There is a lot of humor and heart as the story winds down to a satisfying conclusion. Patterson and Grabenstein grasp not only female characters, but also seem to have the middle-grade-humor-novel down to a science. I wish I knew who contributed what (it seems Patterson releases an unprecedented number of novels—adult and middle grade—each year that I find staggeringly prolific and overwhelming successful). Their latest, Jacky Ha-Ha, gives young students a new, relate-able female lead. With all of Jacky’s sisters, you can bet young girls will understand and enjoy this crazy huge family series.
Jacky Ha-Ha is the first release from new imprint Jimmy Patterson Books. Patterson hopes to inpire kids to say, “Please give me another book.”
JACKY HA-HA. Text copyright © 2016 by James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein. Illustrations copyright © 2016 by Kerascoёt. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Jimmy Patterson Books, New York, NY.
Jimmy Patterson Books is an imprint of Little, Brown and Company/Hatchette Book Group.
JACKY HA-HA. Illustrations © 2016 by Kerascoёt. Used by permission of Jimmy Patterson Books.
Copyright © 2016 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews. All Rights Reserved
Full Disclosure: Jacky Ha-Ha by James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein & Kerascoёt, and received from Jimmy Patterson Books, (an imprint of Little, Brown and Company), is in exchange NOT for a positive review, but for an HONEST review. The opinions expressed are my own and no one else’s. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”