Monday, May 07, 2007

Jack Plank Tells Tales

Jack Plank Tells Tales by, Natalie Babbitt (see also IPL Kidspace: Natalie Babbitt) is a collection of tales intricately woven into a single story. Jack Plank is a victim of pirate ship downsizing; the pirate business is slow and Captain Scudder of the appropriately named ship the Avarice, has informed Jack that only pirates who actually participate in pillaging will be kept as part of the team. Jack is put onshore in an island port town of Saltwash with only his wits and a small trunk of keepsakes. He finds his way to a boarding house, promises the proprietor Mrs. DelFresno he will cause no trouble, and is given a week or so to find "steady work" and "prove himself fit" in order to remain. As Jack and Nina, Mrs. DelFresno's nine year old daughter, search the town for work, reasons for not choosing a particular profession are revealed within individual chapters. What makes these accounts unique is the traditional oral storytelling invoked by Jack and enjoyed by his listeners. Jack tells the story to the boarding house residents and they are appropriately captivated by his tales.

Along the way we learn why Jack will never be a barber, a fisherman, or even a goldsmith and are given a delightful glimpse into accompanying pirate tales. Simple pencil/ink drawings highlight each chapter giving readers a glimpse of pirate life and enhancing the individual tale being told (the seagull girl is particularly evocative). Never fear, Jack's career problem is solved in a most satisfying manner. This would be a nice selection for classroom read alouds or language arts story telling lessons.

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