Heads or Tails: Stories from the Sixth Grade (Jack Henry)

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9780374329099: Heads or Tails: Stories from the Sixth Grade (Jack Henry)

From the Newbery Medal–winning author of Dead End in Norvelt, eight more hysterical semi-autobiographical Jack Henry stories about a sixth grader's trials and tribulations



Jack's life is a crazy roller-coaster ride. At his fifth school in six years, he has a crackpot teacher who won't give him a break about his lousy handwriting and a secret crush who wants to be a policewoman. At home, he has a pesky little brother with a knack for getting hurt whenever Jack's supposed to be looking after him, a terror for an older sister, all sorts of weird neighbors, and, last but not least, ferocious alligators in the canal behind his house.

Writing in his diary about his good days and bad days is one way Jack survives his up-and-down year. But he's also a kid who knows that life can go any which way at any given moment.

He might as well flip a coin: heads he wins, tails he loses. What will turn up next?

A Common Core title.

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About the Author:

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.

From School Library Journal:

Grade 5-8-A book that reads like an improbably successful collaboration between Betsy Byars and William Sleator: funny but ...weird! Set in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, sometime in the late '60s, these eight stories about an appealing sixth grader named Jack are filled with oddball characters and offbeat situations: neighbors, for example, keep 30 dogs (in the house), paint an atom bomb target on the roof, and drive cars on their lawn. Jack's world is not only weird, it's rootless. He's lived in nine different houses and attended five schools in six years-and, some days, it's even dangerously out of control: a plane falls out of the sky and the pilot is killed; the family's dog is eaten by an alligator; younger brother Pete keeps getting injured while in his care-no wonder Jack always thinks the worst and wistfully believes in UFOs, hoping "they'll take me away from all this confusion and set me down in a place without fear." And yet Jack, like the watch that takes a licking, always keeps on ticking, performing acts of unselfconscious kindness. He's a survivor, an "everyboy" whose world may be wacko but whose heart and spirit are eminently sane and generous. Gantos is a terrific writer with a wonderfully wry sensibility, a real talent for turning artful phrases, and a gift for creating memorable characters. In the first story Jack thinks, "I can either be a copycat for the rest of my life or I can be one-of-a-kind." By the final story, readers will realize that he has become the latter and so has this memorable book about him.
Michael Cart, formerly at Beverly Hills Public Library
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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