The Several Lives of Orphan Jack

by Sarah Ellis and Bruno St-Aubin

The power of words and ideas is at the heart of this upbeat novel following the travels... read more

The power of words and ideas is at the heart of this upbeat novel following the travels and exploits of an irrepressible 12-year-old orphan. Jack makes his escape from the Opportunities School for Orphans and Foundlings with nothing but his wits and his words, his most treasured possession being a battered old dictionary missing all of the letters A and B. “...From C to Z it had given [him] some of his happiest moments....A sunrise was better when you knew the word sublime...Oatmeal for dinner was somehow not so sad when you knew the word mingy.” On his own, Jack travels where fate takes him, and words and ideas become his means to a living when he stumbles upon the idea of selling whims at a village market in exchange for what he needs. Because imagination and pleasure are frowned upon by the powers that be in that particular village, Jack’s wares (which eventually include “thoughts, concepts, plans, opinions, impressions, notions and fancies”) are eye-opening delights to the populace. In Jack, Sarah Ellis has created a Dickensian hero without all the gloom. He’s anything but downtrodden and hapless. Her blithe novel is a delight to read and begs to be read aloud, with its many words to be relished for how they sound, what they say and the stories they can tell. (Ages 8–11)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2004

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