Me & Jack

Written by Danette Haworth
Review by Janette King

New town, new school – 11-year-old Joshua Reed has seen it all before. His dad is a recruiter for the US Army, so moving has become old hat. But this time, in this small Pennsylvania town, Joshua is suddenly allowed to have a dog. Why now, he isn’t too sure. Maybe because his mom passed away two years ago; maybe because his dad isn’t likely to be popular with fathers whose sons might find themselves Vietnam-bound after a single conversation.

Me & Jack is a highly readable point-of-view tale about the need to achieve (and maintain) acceptance, sometimes against nearly impossible odds. For kids who are “new,” the very personable Joshua – a boy who successfully adapts to new situations countless times – is a potential lifeline. (Joshua is even self-aware enough to pass on tips to readers!) But author Danette Haworth also explores the hopeless side of being different through various characters: Joshua’s dog, Jack; the socially inept Alan Prater; and a young Vietnam vet, newly returned home.

Haworth does a remarkable job with Jack, the unlikely shelter dog. Throughout the book Jack is true to himself (as real dogs always are!), even though he is clearly different and so easily miscast by the casual observer know-it-alls in the story. Of course, Jack never feels like a social pariah – but Joshua sure does on Jack’s behalf!

Danette Haworth has delivered a simple yet highly effective story about an important subject. While written for a young adult market, Me & Jack appeals to readers of all ages. It’s the sort of book young readers would – I hope – come back to reread from an adult perspective.