Jack on the Tracks
Four Seasons of Fifth Grade
By Jack Gantos
(Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR), Hardcover, 9780374336653, 192pp.)
Publication Date: July 1, 1999
From the Newbery Medal–winning author of Dead End in Norvelt, nine semi-autobiographical stories that will make you laugh so hard it hurts
In Jack on the Tracks, fifth-grader Jack Henry is hoping for fresh adventure when he moves to a new home in Miami with his family, but he can’t escape his old worrying ways. He worries about being fascinated with all things gross and disgusting. He worries about his crazy French-obsessed schoolteacher. And most of all he worries about worrying so much.
In this cycle of interrelated stories, there may be light at the end of the tunnel, if only Jack can get on the right track to survive his outrageous year.
Jack Gantos has written books for people of all ages, from picture books and middle-grade fiction to novels for young adults and adults. His works include Hole in My Life, a memoir that won the Michael L. Printz and Robert F. Sibert Honors, Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key, a National Book Award Finalist, Joey Pigza Loses Control, a Newbery Honor book, and Dead End in Norvelt, winner of the Newbery Medal and the Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction.
Jack was born in Mount Pleasant, Pennsylvania, and when he was seven, his family moved to Barbados. He attended British schools, where there was much emphasis on reading and writing, and teachers made learning a lot of fun. When the family moved to south Florida, he found his new classmates uninterested in their studies, and his teachers spent most of their time disciplining students. Jack retreated to an abandoned bookmobile (three flat tires and empty of books) parked out behind the sandy ball field, and read for most of the day. The seeds for Jack’s writing career were planted in sixth grade, when he read his sister’s diary and decided he could write better than she could. He begged his mother for a diary and began to collect anecdotes he overheard at school, mostly from standing outside the teachers’ lounge and listening to their lunchtime conversations. Later, he incorporated many of these anecdotes into stories.
While in college, he and an illustrator friend, Nicole Rubel, began working on picture books. After a series of well-deserved rejections, they published their first book, Rotten Ralph, in 1976. It was a success and the beginning of Jack’s career as a professional writer. Jack continued to write children’s books and began to teach courses in children’s book writing and children’s literature. He developed the master’s degree program in children’s book writing at Emerson College and the Vermont College M.F.A. program for children’s book writers. He now devotes his time to writing books and educational speaking. He lives with his family in Boston, Massachusetts.
“Jack . . . returns here in an account of the year . . . when his family first moves to Florida . . . His struggle for maturation is enhanced by Gantos’s effervescent writing style and grasp of the gross and horrifying . . . This will reel kids right in.” —Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
“A laugh-out-loud read inhabited by killer cats, giant tapeworms, and escaped convicts.” —The Horn Book
“Hilarious, exquisitely painful, and utterly on-target.” —Booklist
“Poignant, funny, and real.” —School Library Journal