There were so many things I loved about Susanne Gervay’s new book, Always Jack, just released this month by HarperCollins.
Jack is an irresistible character. He’s kind and funny but with the normal insecurities of a boy who comes from a blended family, wondering if his stepfather Rob loves his own son, Leo more.
But Jack doesn’t dwell on it too much. He has great friends, a family who loves him and a house full of quirky pets.
This all comes crashing down when his mother is diagnosed with breast cancer and Jack realizes that there are more important things to worry about than his stepbrother Leo, who really isn’t such a bad guy.
Mum and Rob’s wedding is postponed while she undergoes treatment for the cancer and it takes Jack’s sense of humour and all his courage to cope with what’s happening. Like everything in his life, Jack deals with the situation with optimism and honesty. He also draws on the support of his good friends, Christopher and Anna.
Susanne Gervay tackles a difficult subject on a level that kids will relate to and without sentimentality. Her honesty and the authenticity of the character’s feelings and reactions are what make this story so poignant.
Always Jack is an extraordinary story about ordinary people. It’s a simply told story, but far from simple, delving into a difficult issue in a way that kids will relate to and will make them think ‘it’s okay to feel this way’.
I hesitate to put an age range on Always Jack because it’s the sort of book that could be read by ten to twelve-year olds, but older kids and even adults will also get a lot out of it.
Cathy Wilcox’s amazing cartoons scattered throughout the book help balance the intensity of the subject matter.
The author draws on her own experiences of surviving cancer and as the Cancer Council NSW says, Susanne Gervay’s Always Jack makes it safe for children, parents and the wider community to talk about cancer.
If you enjoyed reading about Jack you might also like his other stories, I Am Jack and SuperJack.