Sunday, November 20, 2016

MMGM: Mighty Jack

Today's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday pick

Mighty Jack, book 1,
a graphic novel by Ben Hatke
Mighty Jack

Written by Ben Hatke
Color by Alex Campbell and Hilary Sycamore of Sky Blue Ink

First Second Books, 2016
Grades 4-7, 208 pages

Magical Realism, Coming-of-age, Siblings, Special Needs

Mighty Jack is part one of a fantasy adventure graphic novel. Jack's single mom is trying her best to raise him and his mute little sister, Maddie. When a mysterious stranger at a flea market convinces Jack to buy a box of seed packets for Maddie, the two embark on a strange journey that begins with a patch of dirt in the backyard and ends somewhere beyond the beanstalk.

The seeds grow bizarre, magical plants which have a life of their own. When the garden becomes dangerous, Jack's neighbor Lilly lends her special brand of talent to train Jack, to protect Maddie, and to investigate the creatures growing in the back yard.

I love Ben Hatke's art and was blown away by the breathtaking colors of the artists of Sky Blue Ink. Also, Hatke's grasp on graphic storytelling is refreshing. Lots of illustrators have jumped on the graphic novel bandwagon, but few have yet learned the special skills for composing a page, wordless panels, and storytelling in comic format. In Mighty Jack, the story flows seamlessly from page to page. There are plenty of wordless spreads, but Hatke manages to convey emotion and suspense. His creatures are by turns frightening and adorable, but always cleverly designed. Yes, the story ends on a complete cliffhanger, but comic fans are used to the episodic nature of the medium. Unfortunately, we'll have to wait a whole year for the next issue. Luckily, there's plenty to read in the meantime. I predict a strong fanart following for this series. And if you still can't get enough, hop over to Etsy and purchase some of Ben's original art. 

In lieu of the actual opening pages (which you can see on Amazon) I've included two pages of the inciting event.

 1. If you enjoyed Mighty Jack, there's more to come. Look for book 2 around September 2017. In the mean time, enjoy the comic capers on Ben's blog, picture books like Julia's House for Lost Creatures or Nobody Likes a Goblin, or more graphic novel work like those below.

Ben Hatke's other middle grade series,
Zita the Space Girl
Little Robot, a graphic novel for grades 2-4
2. Don't take my word for it, read what other MMGM reviewers have to say about Ben's work:

Zita the Space Girl
Faith, at Life's An Art!
Alyson, of Kidlit Frenzy

Legends of Zita the Space Girl
Heidi, the Geo Librarian

The Return of Zita the Spacegirl
Beth, at Beth Fish Reads

Mighty Jack, book 1
Karen on Ms. Yingling Reads

3. If you love comics and graphic novels, check out these Marvelous Middle Grade Monday recommendations.

Storm in the Barn, by Matt Phelan,
 reviewed by My Brain on Books
Alamo All-Stars, by Nathan Hale,
reviewed on Word Spelunking
Anya's Ghost, by Vera Brosgol
Reviewed on Tales From the Raven
Ghosts, by Reina Telgemeier
Reviewed on Bookish Ambition


Check out all the Marvelous Middle Grade Monday recommendations for November 21, 2016.

Have you reviewed a Marvelous Middle Grade Book along this theme? Please leave the link in the comments below. Thanks!

MMGM started way back in 2010 by Shannon Messenger, author of Keeper of Lost Cities. Each week, participating bloggers review our favorite books for ages 8-12. Why not join us?


  1. This is an expanded version of a beloved tale. I like the fact that the author has created a graphic middle grade read that involves a great fantasy!

    1. I love that he really fit both the material and the medium to his audience. I think MGs are going to eat it up. Thanks.

  2. I loved Zita the Space Girl, and I love Hatke's art. Must add to my collection of his (and I have some nieces to buy Christmas presents for, too!)

    1. I am thinking of this as a gift, too. Plus, I recently read Nobody Likes a Goblin, Ben's picture book which I just have to buy for someone.

  3. What a great line up of graphic novels! I really enjoyed Anya's Ghost, and Mighty Jack looks fun, too! Thanks for the recommends!

    1. I probably should have recommended some more of my favorites, but I guess I'll save those for another day. Thanks!

  4. This should appeal to those who can't get enough of graphic novels and also reluctant readers. The art work is excellent. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Good point about the reluctant readers. The adventurous story line is sure to draw them in. Thanks for the thought!

  5. Wow! This sounds great! I've been meaning to try out some graphic novels/manga, and this seems like a good one to add to the list! Thanks for the review! :)

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