Note: I received copies of Mighty Jack & Mighty Jack and the Goblin King from the publisher for review. This does not impact the content of my review.

mighty jack by ben hatkeBook: Mighty Jack (Book 1)
Author: Ben Hatke
Publication Date: September 6, 2016
Publisher: First Second
Genre: Children’s, Graphic Novels

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Synopsis

Jack might be the only kid in the world who’s dreading summer. But he’s got a good reason: summer is when his single mom takes a second job and leaves him at home to watch his autistic kid sister, Maddy. It’s a lot of responsibility, and it’s boring, too, because Maddy doesn’t talk. Ever. But then, one day at the flea market, Maddy does talk—to tell Jack to trade their mom’s car for a box of mysterious seeds. It’s the best mistake Jack has ever made.

What starts as a normal little garden out back behind the house quickly grows up into a wild, magical jungle with tiny onion babies running amok, huge, pink pumpkins that bite, and, on one moonlit night that changes everything…a dragon.

 

mighty jack and the goblin kingBook: Mighty Jack and the Goblin King (Book 2)
Author: Ben Hatke
Publication Date: September 5, 2017
Publisher: First Second
Genre: Children’s, Graphic Novels

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Synopsis

Like a bolt from the blue, Jack’s little sister Maddy is gone―carried into another realm by an ogre.

When Jack and Lilly follow Maddy’s captor through the portal, they are ready for anything . . . except what they find waiting for them in the floating crossroads between worlds. Even the power of their magic plants may not be enough to get them back to earth alive.

Alone and injured, Jack and Lilly must each face their own monsters―as well as giants who grind the bones of human children to feed their “beast” and a fearsome goblin king in the sewers down below.

But when Jack finds himself in a tough spot, help comes from the most unlikely person: the goblin king!

Ben Hatke, the #1 New York Times–bestselling author of Zita the Spacegirl, concludes his latest middle-grade fantasy-adventure graphic novel series, Mighty Jack, with the energetic finale to his retelling of Jack and the Beanstalk.

Review

My rating: 5 stars!

Ben Hatke has written and illustrated this reimagining of Jack and the Beanstalk. The first book in the series, Mighty Jack came out last year. The second book in the series, Mighty Jack and the Goblin King, comes out next month. I was so excited at the chance to read and review them. When these books arrived in the mail, I jumped up and down and did a little dance. Don’t believe me? Just ask my husband. Book mail is my favourite mail. Especially when it is this gorgeous!

These two books are absolutely stunning. The dialogue and narration is simple enough for an earlier reader (they are aimed at ages 8-12, according to publisher First Second (MacMillan)). But the artwork is what really tells the story. Hatke is masterful at drawing scenes, creating layouts with dynamic flow, and using interesting angles to express tone or tension.

The Mighty Jack books are delightful! Completely, utterly, delightful. The story is adorable. The art is absolutely gorgeous.

These books do a fantastic job of giving this well-known fairytale new life in a contemporary setting. Family life is represented really well, with realistic relationships between Jack and his mom, early-teen year responsibilities (like helping around the house and taking care of younger siblings), and even realistic new friendships (so. much. awkward.). The characters are fun and dynamic without being too stereotypical or moralizing. Yes, Jack is the caring, responsible older brother – but he also makes a lot of mistakes, which I love.

Mighty Jack and a dragon

How gorgeous is this scene? The art in these graphic novels is stunning and tells the story incredibly well. So well, that often, dialogue or narration is necessary.

Book One sets the story up really nicely, and Book Two jumps right back in (which worked perfectly for me, as I read them back to back in about 2 hours). There are a few plot questions  that pop up(like who is this guy who gave Jack and Maddy the seeds?), but I anticipate they will be answered in forthcoming books – because, yes, Book Two finishes the story arc, but definitely sets up for more stories with Jack, Lilly, and Maddy. I also love how Hatke flips the damsel in distress trope in Mighty Jack and the Goblin King.

My only real complaint about these two books is the lack of people of colour. There aren’t a lot of characters aside from Jack, his mom, his sister Maddy, and his friend Lilly, and her family. But there is a scene where Jack and his family go to a flea market. Even in the crowd frames, all the people are white. There is more diversity in the goblins in the second book than there are in the people in both books.

If you’re looking for fun graphic novels for earlier readers in your life (or really any readers), I definitely recommend the Mighty Jack books. Now, I’m off to go find the rest of Ben Hatke’s books. I want to read them all! (and spend hours poring over the beautiful illustrations.)

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