Synopses & Reviews
Enter a world where magic bubbles just below the surface. . . .
When Jack is sent to Hazelwood, Iowa, to live with his strange aunt and uncle, he expects a summer of boredom. Little does he know that the people of Hazelwood have been waiting for him for quite a long time.
When he arrives, three astonishing things happen: First, he makes friends -- not imaginary friends but actual friends. Second, he is beaten up by the town bully; the bullies at home always ignored him. Third, the richest man in town begins to plot Jack's imminent, and hopefully painful, demise. It's up to Jack to figure out why suddenly everyone cares so much about him. Back home he was practically, well, invisible.
The Mostly True Story of Jack is an eerie tale of magic, friendship, and sacrifice. It's about things broken and things put back together. Above all, it's about finding a place to belong.
"In her first novel, children's nonfiction author Barnhill quickly establishes a sense of foreboding in the town of Hazelwood, Iowa, as Jack ignored by and invisible to his parents, who are divorcing moves in with his eccentric aunt and uncle, whose house appears to be possessed. Slowly, Jack befriends some locals, including 14-year-old twins Wendy and Frankie, the latter scarred and silent years after a childhood disappearance, and the eerily psychic Anders. Jack also becomes the focus of a town bully and an evil patriarch who cultivates power through magic; tension mounts as Jack provokes the supernatural forces that cause children and buildings to disappear. Suspense builds steadily, with twists and surprises woven throughout, and friendship emerges as a powerful theme. 'Given that he didn't really know what it was like to have friends, Jack didn't realize until that very moment that he missed Wendy and that he had been very lonely for the last few days.' Barnhill explores the struggle between good and evil and the power of love and sacrifice, creating a provocative and highly original mystery. Ages 8 12. (Aug.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
* "Truly splendid...the ultimate page-turner."--Kirkus Reviews, starred review
* "Suspense builds steadily, with twists and surprises woven throughout, and friendship emerges as a powerful theme....Barnhill explores the struggle between good and evil and the power of love and sacrifice, creating a provocative and highly original mystery."--Publishers Weekly, starred review
* "Wonderful in the best possible way: filled with wonders and magic, yes, but magic that is ancient, numinous, and tied to the natural world...Barnhill's first novel for children is a marvel of both plotting and characterization, and it provides a foundation for the omnipresent magic that elevates this title to the first rank of contemporary children's literature."--Booklist, starred review
* "A compelling story with genuine characters and a deliciously creepy atmosphere. The suspense builds from the very first page...This delightful story will captivate readers with its blend of magic, mystery, and adventure."--VOYA, starred review
"There's a dry wit and playfulness to Barnhill's writing that recalls Lemony Snicket and Blue Balliett...a delightfully unusual gem."--The Los Angeles Times
"Richly atmospheric, this folklorically flavored tale offers a strangely pleasing combination of midwestern charm and hauntingly creepy Tim Burton-like imagination. Barnhill reveals just enough of Hazelwood's many secrets to keep the readers gripped, and the perfectly timed pacing makes for a quick and accessible read."--The Bulletin
"Fagan creates wonderfully engaging characters and tackles some tough issues."—School Library Journal
A charming, humor- and heart-filled middle grade story of a misfit boy who finds an unexpected second life after being kidnapped by a colorful traveling medicine show.
“If you always feel fully and completely happy, my friends, then you do not need my drops and I will not sell them to you for any amount of money.”
Eleven-year-old juggling enthusiast Sullivan Mintz helps his family run the Stardust Home for Old People. Its not ideal: his best friend, Manny, is eighty-one years old. But life as usual turns upside down when Master Melvilles Medicine Show comes to town. Sullivans excitement at finding performers his own age dissolves into dread when he steps onstage for a magic act only to wake up imprisoned in the traveling shows caravan. As his fears subside, his questions multiply. Is his family better off without him? Would life as a juggler performing with other kids be worse than living in an old folks home? Being kidnapped could be the best thing that ever happened to him . . . or decidedly not.
About the Author
Kelly Barnhill is a poet and writer who also wrote The Witch's Boy and Iron Hearted Violet. The Mostly True Story of Jack, her debut novel, received four starred reviews. Kelly lives in Minnesota with her husband and three children.