Jacky Ha-Ha: A Graphic Novel

Little, Brown/Jimmy Patterson. May 2020. 224p. adapted by adapt. by Adam Rau & Betty C. Tang. Tr $24.99. ISBN 9780316459716.
Gr 4-7–A graphic adaptation of the best-selling coming-of-age comedic novel. Since Jacqueline Hart—sobriquet Jacky Ha-Ha—was in elementary school, all of Seaside Heights, NJ, has known her as the class clown. The fourth-born sibling in a seven-daughter set has always compensated for her stutter with her cleverness, but seventh grade has transformed her wit into a vulnerability. When Jacky’s disruptions land her in detention, new teacher Ms. O’Mara offers a way out: participation in a school musical. Meanwhile, Jacky’s mom, a Marine Corps staff sergeant, is stationed in Saudi Arabia; her father, a lifeguard, always comes home late and spends a lot of time with a comely colleague; and her beloved Nonna’s health is declining. Can Jacky learn to moderate her antics and distinguish among school, home, and stage? Jacky’s story is stuffed with plot and thin on nuance, relying heavily on tropes and archetypes in lieu of dynamic characterization. Jacky is the exception proving the rule, endowed with an ideal balance of intelligence, jocularity, and emotional salience that readers will adore—think an older Junie B. Jones. Pacing stumbles: Both exposition and dénouement unfold in a flash while interstitial and transitional material prove lacking. Aside from Jacky’s best friend Meredith, the entire ensemble is white. Artwork is par for the genre: perky with simple linework and (overly) expressive faces.
VERDICT A run-of-the-mill graphic novel buttressed by its moxie and Hart.

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