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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Calamity Jack, written by Shannon and Dean Hale and illustrated by Nathan Hale. Bloomsbury, Penguin. 2010. $18.50 ages 8 and up

"My plan was to hide from the giants, wait for Goldy to lay some eggs, then head back to make things up with Momma - build the nicest tenement and bakery in all the New World Territories. Show her I could be good. Then things got complicated."

In the follow-up tale to Rapunzel's Revenge, Jack becomes the main character. He fancies himself quite the brilliant man, with a bad luck streak. He's always plotting, scheming, planning his next caper. He's got Goldy, who lays golden eggs and he has Rapunzel...fresh from the happy ending to her story.

Giving up his prize possession (his father's jacket) for money to buy supplies for his next adventure, Jack is again tricked into parting with that money by a green sprite with some magic beans. Now, if only they work as fast as promised. He's ready to take on the big guys (giants, that is) and all he needs is a little help from his past in the form of a pixie, and Rapunzel (with her specatacular braids). He is out to prove himself worthy of his mother's love and trust, and he's got a plan....well, there are some complications.  The troubles at home have grown much grimmer and dastardly while he has been gone. Can Jack prove himself worthy of Rapunzel's love, too?

The Hales have created an extraordinary world...rife with adventure and magic. It looks like the old west, but smacks of the future, too. Their setting, the thoroughly likeable characters, the smattering of magic and the quest for a better life make it worthy of a wide audience. Action fills the pages, from ant people to dangerous escapes, from giants to dirigibles.  Jack and Rapunzel are always on the move. We are never sure where Jack might land next. 

He has many worries and doubts. But, he wants to atone for his mistakes and he does his very best to make things right. He doesn't always take the best path, but he is sure of his goal. He is in love with Rapunzel but not sure that he is worthy. The happily ever after ending takes some time and patience, hard work and big mistakes. In the end, I think readers will think it is worth it.

The Hales have not lost their touch with language. They are articulate, humorous, entertaining and their pace is perfect. The art will be equally appealing to a wide-ranging audience. It is terrific, allowing all readers to take the story and characters seriously, as he does. No wonder kids are grabbing onto graphic novels with tight fists and great interest. This is a brilliant example of what graphica can be for our readers. It would be my advice to read the first book first; not because this story won't stand on its own, just because it is equally as enjoyable and will give background information about Rapunzel and her many skills.

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