Review: Jacky Ha-Ha, My Life is a Joke, by James Patterson

Published on ReadKiddoRead.com, January 2018.

In this second installment of the Jacky Ha-Ha series, Jacky Hart leads the reader through a summer in Seaside Heights, her small town along the New Jersey coast. With carnival games, junk food, and plenty of leisure time, school is out and antics on the tourist-lined boardwalk are in!

But all great plans are put on hold when the Hart sisters learn they will have to get summer jobs to help make ends meet at home. Fortunately, Jacky quickly puts her theatrical chops to good use by drumming up business at a carnival stand, earning herself a job and quite the reputation.

Meanwhile, Ms. O’Mara, beloved theater teacher, rallies Jacky and her friends to audition for a local production of Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream featuring an all-star Broadway cast. In between shifts at the carnival stand, Jacky and her friends – familiar faces from the first book in the series – attend rehearsals and prepare to be stars in the making.

As Jacky faces the bright lights of the stage, she must once again conquer her stutter, this time while navigating middle-school romance and intrigue: just why are all the boys acting so strange? What is with Ms. O’Mara’s mysterious nephew? And who is stealing from the shops along boardwalk?

Illustrations throughout the novel provide an aside to the reader, elaborating and embellishing scenes to comic effect and in keeping with Jacky’s wit, charm, and imagination.

Even with a large ensemble cast, there’s no question Jacky is the heroine of her tale. Summer-time crushes, a healthy dose of sleuthing, and plenty of laughs will keep readers turning the page to see how Jacky will get herself into – and out of – trouble all summer long.

Review: The Templeton Twins Have an Idea, by Ellis Weiner

The Templeton Twins Have an IdeaThe opening spread of The Templeton Twins Have an Idea features a prologue that reads, in a sweeping script, “The End.”

Lest we be fooled, the cantankerous narrator follows up with a question: “Did you enjoy the Prologue? Do you think it makes the slightest bit of difference to me whether you did or not?” And so readers are pulled in by the begrudging wit of the narrator. Although never named, he establishes himself as a character just as lively as any other in the book, skillfully withholding information and revealing the tale of the Templeton twins along the way.

The twelve year-old Templeton twins, John and Abigail, live with their father, a professor and inventor, who has not worked since his wife died earlier in the year. Thinking that the family needs a change, the twins convince their father to buy a dog. Cassie, the Ridiculous Dog, as the narrator calls her, infuses life into the household, reinvigorating Professor Templeton and prompting him to go back to work.

So the family packs up and moves to the Tickeridge-Baltock Institute of Technology (nick-named Tick-Tock Tech), where Professor Templeton is provided a laboratory and teaching position. During a public lecture, the Professor and the twins encounter a disgruntled former student who claims the professor has stolen his invention. The accusation reveals a years-long vendetta and sweeps the Templeton twins into a kidnapping plot.

Readers will quickly learn that the twins are not easily intimidated, and certainly not to be underestimated. And while they prove to be resourceful and clever, relying on teamwork to thwart their captors, they undoubtedly must share the spotlight with the narrator. The sarcasm and humor with which he tells the tale will delight readers and carry them through to the end.

With The Templeton Twins Have an Idea, Ellis Weiner presents the first in a series sure to appeal to both boys and girls. Book two is expected in September 2013.

Posted on ReadKiddoRead, September 2012.