Sometimes I receive or discover a book and I fall immediately head over heels in love with it. Other times I hate it right off the bat. And occasionally the book sticks in my head and grows on me over time. Today’s book doesn’t fit any of those scenarios. This book is sneaky and stole its way into a review by route of my daughter. An imported equine story has captured the affection of our toddler and thus I find myself examining it, and pondering over it, and vainly trying to deduce what it is that my child is so obsessed about. It’s not that there is anything wrong with this book and perhaps I am just missing the grandness somehow, but upon first read I found myself somewhat ambivalent to it. I like Albertine’s work and the storyline is quirky to match, well-paced and quite European in tone and style. I rather enjoy reading it, but it didn’t really jump out to me. It does thrill me though that my daughter is developing a taste of her own in literature. I gladly encourage her endearment in lovely books even if it decides not to woo me. So without further ado, take a peek at a humorous tale about a horse and his jockey, the terribly disastrous turn of their career, and the silly solution. This is Jumping Jack by Germano Zullo, illustrated by Albertine, 2014.
This is a story about a powerhouse pair of show-jumping champions, Jumping Jack and Roger Trotter (the most perfect jockey name there could be). They are a brilliant team with a large following of fans.
Alas at one major competition, things turn very badly with Jumping Jack falling all over the place and losing it all. His devoted and concerned jockey, Roger Trotter, determines to cure dear Jack of his sudden issues.
Doctors are consulted, a psychiatrist questioned, and a relaxing vacation is embarked upon; but the beginning of the next competition shows no improvement. The very first jump takes a nasty turn, yet in a twist of fate, ends in the desperately needed solution… Roger Trotter’s glasses land on Jumping Jack’s nose! The following jumps are hysterical in their new “stylish” performance with Jumping Jack bespectacled and Roger Trotter hanging on for dear life in comical positions. The two find themselves yet again champions to much hurrah from the crowd.
Forgive me for giving this plot away. I have internally debated all week whether I was going to divulge the result or not and I came to the conclusion that it is necessary for several reasons. First, this book is perfect for the child who needs glasses. That’s probably a silly reason, but I’ve been racking my brain trying to think of books that are specifically about getting glasses but aren’t overly didactic or lamely done. I’ve come up with one other one and am still pondering. If I kept that part a secret, then this book may not find its sight-hindered audience that happens to be reading my blog. Seriously, what newly four-eyed child wouldn’t delight in reading about an awesome horse who needs glasses and becomes more awesome when getting said glasses? I want them to find this book.
The other reason is that I selfishly want to discuss this book. I really want to love it, but a few things are hindering me. The plot is clever and something I didn’t see coming. But that very fact actually bothers me because rationally, I think it odd that Jumping Jack’s eyesight failed so suddenly. I don’t think it is normal to suddenly go from seeing perfectly to falling all over the place. Yes, it is a book and books can do whatever they want, but still, it bothers me.
I’d love to be able to read this book in its original text which I believe is French. While being mostly unnoticeable, there are a couple places where the text feels choppy and makes me feel like something is getting lost in translation. Combine that with a subject matter (show-jumping) that isn’t a huge part of American culture and illustrations that feel decidedly European, and I think you have the reasons why it didn’t capture me instantly, especially considering its by an award-winning Swiss duo.
But it did win my daughter. And I do enjoy reading it. The vet’s test results are down-right comical and something I dare you to find in another picture book. The color palette is excellent and definitely unique, perfectly pairing with the quirky characters and backdrop. And the timing of the page-turns is excellent. I’d give it a 9 out of 10 for sure (is that how show-jumping is judged?). Not quite the champion of books; but unique, well-done and not annoying to read repetitively. Just out this May in the USA from Chronicle Books, check it out and let me know what you think.