Mighty Jack, written and illustrated by Ben Hatke, color by Alex Campbell and Hilary Sycamore
published in 2016 by First Second
Turning Ben Hatke loose with Jack and his magical beans is like, I don’t know, giving J.K. Rowling the keys to Oz? Letting Lewis Carroll slip into Narnia? Suddenly even the ordinarily-magical gets cranked up into neon, technicolor heights! And at the same time, a vein of tenderness wends its way through the whole account. Seriously magical.
Jack is a nice kid with a single mom working two jobs over the summer to make ends meet, and a younger, autistic sister who needs watching. Maddy clearly loves Jack, and just as clearly has intense ideas and tastes, but she doesn’t talk. At all. Which makes caring for her a tricky business.
One day at the flea market Maddy wanders off and bumbles into a mysterious sort of fellow with some peculiar seed packets for sale. Jack doesn’t have the money to pay for them but when the craziest thing happens — when Maddy suddenly does talk and begs him to buy the seeds — Jack gets tipped off balance and recklessly pays the fellow off with…No, I won’t tell you but his mom is furious!
When Jack and Maddy set to work planting those curious seeds, stranger, far more malevolent things sprout up than simply a sky-high beanstalk! It takes all Jack’s wits plus the help of a new, sizzlingly-spunky, homeschooled neighbor girl, Lilly, and her rad swordsmanship, to confront the menacing jungle.
Hatke’s characters knit their way into my heart with magical speed — wait’ll you meet those Onion Babies! — and the pace and electric energy of his story make this a wild page-turner. And then — cliffhanger ending! For this is Book One. The conclusion comes out later in 2017.
Turn folks ages 8 and up loose with this for a wild ride!