cover image Jack the Castaway

Jack the Castaway

Lisa Doan, illus. by Ivica Stevanovic. Lerner/Darby Creek, $17.95 (152p) ISBN 978-1-4677-1076-3

Launching the Berenson Schemes series, Doan’s debut novel pits cautious Jack Berenson against his reckless parents with uproarious results. Jack stays with his aunt while his parents embark on doomed “get-rich-quick schemes,” including panning for gold in the Amazon, “which had not produced any gold but had produced intestinal parasites.” After Jack’s aunt dies, he’s forced to accompany them to the Caribbean to start a snorkeling business. The story’s dry humor is seeded in Jack’s ruminations about his parents (“They were like little kids who kept running into the road”) and their cross-purpose dialogue (Jack complains that they would be “horrible” homeschoolers who wouldn’t even check his homework, and his father laughs, “We’d never give you homework”). When Jack’s parents abandon him in a ramshackle skiff while they snorkel, the boat runs out of gas, and Jack drifts to an uninhabited island. With only a cynical parrot for company, the outdoors-averse 11-year-old uses his wits to survive while awaiting rescue. Stevanovic’s caricatured spot illustrations match up well with this funny and adventure-filled story of parent-child role reversal. Ages 9–12. Agent: Kathy Green, Kathryn Green Literary Agency. (Apr.)