REVIEW: Spring-Heeled Jack by Philip Pullman
REVIEW SUMMARY: An entertaining, one-sitting read.
BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Legendary Victorian hero Spring-Heeled Jack helps a trio of orphan siblings fight kidnapper/thief Mack the Knife.
PROS: Interesting narrative/comic-strip format; deft handling of multiple characters and twisty plot.
CONS: Some of the panels contained a meant-to-be-funny cat whose jokes fell flat.
BOTTOM LINE: A fun and different read.
Philip Pullman’s young adult book, Spring-Heeled Jack, is a short book that plays off the legend of Victorian-era superhero Spring Heeled Jack, so-named because of his extraordinary leaping abilities. Of course, his devil-like costume didn’t hurt putting the scare into the bad guys.
The story follows a trio of sibling orphans as they try to escape their mean caretakers. They quickly fall victim to the evil Mack the Knife who kidnaps young Ned in hopes to eventually steal his sisters’ gold locket which holds a picture of their departed mother. Spring-Heeled Jack appears on the scene to help the two sisters by rescuing their brother and helping the three kids get on board a ship heading to America where they can start a new life.
The book is interesting in that it is part narrative and part comic strip, both interwoven so as to make the story move along quickly. The panels contain pen drawings that helpfully put faces on many of secondary characters that are introduced: Jack’s friend Polly, Polly’s beau Jim Bowling who works on the ship heading to America, The kids’ long-lost father (no spoiler – he’s introduced within the first twenty pages), Ms. Gasket and Mr. Killjoy from the orphanage, Mack and his gang, and even a cute stray dog. There’s not a whole lot of time devoted to characterizations here other than the quick stereotypical bad-guy kind of imagery. That’s OK, though – this is a plot-driven tale that uses occasional humor to tell its story, pleasantly winding its way to its satisfying ending. In the end, this short book was a fun and different read able to be completed in one-sitting.
Filed under: Book Review
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