cover image Wicked Jack

Wicked Jack

Connie Nordhielm Wooldridge. Holiday House, $16.95 (1pp) ISBN 978-0-8234-1101-6

Narrated with a breezy Southern twang, this pleasingly tart picture book by a first-time author tells of a man so mean that even the Devil is afraid of him. Wicked Jack's favorite trick is to invite unsuspecting strangers in for a bite to eat, then practice his dastardly tricks on them. So when a crippled man passes by, Jack lures him into his cottage with false kindness and is just about to begin his pranks when the stranger turns into Saint Peter and grants him three wishes. Saint Peter says these are ``three of the sorriest wishes I ever did hear of,'' but they enable Jack to one-up the Devil when he pays Jack a call. Jack, however, proves the chief victim of his own nastiness--after he dies, he is welcome in neither Heaven nor Hell, and must wander the Great Dismal Swamp of Virginia and North Carolina with a piece of coal. Hillenbrand (Asher and the Capmakers) captures the slapstick humor of this feisty read-aloud with great verve in his finely wrought illustrations, rendered in graphite, oils, oil pastels and ``a smudge of coal.'' His characters are both idiosyncratic and lassic, giving the book the feel of a well-loved fairy tale. Intelligent and fun, with a moral thrown in for good measure. Ages 3-8. (Sept.)