Book review

Ordinary Jack by Helen Cresswell (1977)

Part one of the Bagthorpes series

Have you got brothers and sisters? I expect they annoy you a teeny weeny bit sometimes?...especially if they're the clever show-off sort that always manage to do things a bit better than you.

Jack's got a family like that. They're all egg-heads with super-size brains and 'strings to their bow', whereas Jack feels pretty ordinary inside. They're alright as far as families go. He actually quite likes them all, and there are a lot of them: two parents, two grandparents, two sisters, one brother, one uncle and aunt, one cousin, and Zero the best dog an ordinary boy could have. But just once in a while it would be nice to do something brilliant and take them all by surprise...

Uncle Parker thinks they're all a size too big for their boots too. Uncle Parker's a practical joker, and he comes up with a plan for Jack:

'...What I've hatched up for you, young Jack, is going to shake that family of yours to its foundations. To its core.'
'It is?'
'What you are going to be,' Uncle Parker told him, as they entered the field that was the home straight to The Knoll, 'is a prophet.'
Jack was struggling to keep up. He was a full foot shorter than Uncle Parker and what was a jog to him was an all-out striding for Jack.
'You mean--?' He was bewildered. 'Make a profit? Be in business? But I said nothing to do with figures.'
Uncle Parker stopped so suddenly that Jack was several yards past him before he realized, and had to turn back.
'What I mean,' he said, 'is that you are to become a mystery, an enigma, a mystically gifted being beyond all ken. Beyond anybody's ken.'

Well, all Jack really needs is to be beyond his own family's ken, just for once in his life.

Does the scheme work? Can he test his geeky family's credulity to the limit? Do they fall for it hook, line and sinker? That's for you to read and discover.

It's a bit silly. Just a bit of fun, but if you fancy a light read with a few sniggers along the way, you won't go too far wrong with this one.

What can I read next?

This is the first book in a series of four about the Bagthorpe family that is being re-issued by Oxford, so if you enjoy this one there is plenty more to go at:

  • Ordinary Jack
  • Absolute Zero
  • Bagthorpes Unlimited
  • Bagthorpes vs the World

Helen Cresswell has written many books for children. Have a look at this classic time travel story:

If you really enjoy stories about whacky family life, I think you will really enjoy this one by Hilary McKay:

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