cover image Jackson Jones and the Puddle of Thorns

Jackson Jones and the Puddle of Thorns

Mary Quattlebaum. Delacorte Press Books for Young Readers, $13.95 (113pp) ISBN 978-0-385-31165-6

``Every success story has a beginning,'' opens this story, winner of the publisher's first annual prize for middle grade fiction. ``But I wonder if those great folks knew when they had taken the first step down that road. Like there was a sign: GREATNESS--Next Right.'' Quattlebaum's first-person narrator, Jackson Jones, hooks readers at the start with his humorous, street-smart style. Jackson can hardly believe it when his mother buys him a plot in the community garden for his birthday instead of a basketball. But then the resourceful 10-year-old devises a plan: he will grow flowers to please Mama, then sell them and buy himself a basketball. Unfortunately, tending a garden and starting a business is no bed of roses, and Jackson winds up having to dig himself out of some real trouble. But Jackson finally gets what he wants, and when he looks back, he realizes that ``mixed in with trouble was some good garden stuff.'' A host of colorful characters and their lively banter keep the bloom on these pages. Illustrations not seen by PW. Ages 6-10. (Feb.)