Saturday, March 6

Ordinary Jack - Helen Cresswell

Jack is the youngest of the Bagthorpes, and the least talented - all his siblings have several Strings to their Bows, ranging from photography to ham radio, but Jack's not much good at anything. If it weren't for his beloved dog Zero, and his zany uncle Parker, there'd be nobody in his corner at all.
When Jack bemoans the fact that he can't even outswim his younger sister Rosie - a discovery Jack knows will be yet another laughing point - Uncle Parker comes up with a plan to increase Jack's mystique. With a little assistance Jack can seem to tell the future - but not all turns out as well as he hopes.
The first in the well loved Bagthorpe saga, Ordinary Jack introduces the eccentric Bagthorpe family, from Jack's fight-provoking Grandma to his temperamental script writer father, the talented and aggravating siblings, wafty Aunt Cecelia (Parker's beloved wife), precocious cousin Daisy and (my favourite in many ways) the hedgehog-like housekeeper Mrs Fosdyke. It also sets the tone of the novels, which are accessible, funny, and relatable.There are a couple of gentle lessons, learned by Jack and overlooked by his competitive family, but Cresswell steers well clear of any preaching or didactic tones.
I loved this series as a child, and will be buying my niece and nephew copies when they're old enough, particularly if either of them are reluctant readers. Returning to it many years later was as rewarding as I hoped, and I can see bright little dots of Bagthorpes in my reading future, even without a crystal ball - Alex

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