Cover image for Jack on the tracks : four seasons of fifth grade
Jack on the tracks : four seasons of fifth grade
Gantos, Jack.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1999.
Physical Description:
182 pages : illustrations ; 22 cm
Moving with his unbearable sister to Miami, Florida, Jack tries to break some of his bad habits but finds himself irresistibly drawn to things disgusting, gross, and weird.
Reading Level:
740 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR MG 5.1 6.0 34710.

Reading Counts RC 3-5 5.3 10 Quiz: 20462 Guided reading level: S.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
X Juvenile Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



From the Newbery Medal-winning author of Dead End in Norvelt , nine semi-autobiographical stories that will make you laugh so hard it hurts

In Jack on the Tracks , fifth-grader Jack Henry is hoping for fresh adventure when he moves to a new home in Miami with his family, but he can't escape his old worrying ways. He worries about being fascinated with all things gross and disgusting. He worries about his crazy French-obsessed schoolteacher. And most of all he worries about worrying so much.

In this cycle of interrelated stories, there may be light at the end of the tunnel, if only Jack can get on the right track to survive his outrageous year.

Author Notes

Jack Gantos was born in Mount Pleasant, Pennsylvania on July 2, 1951. He received a BFA and a MA from Emerson College. While in college, he and an illustrator friend, Nicole Rubel, began working on picture books. After a series of rejections, they published their first book, Rotten Ralph, in 1976. His other books include Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key, a National Book Award Finalist, Joey Pigza Loses Control, a Newbery Honor book, and Dead End in Norvelt, which won the 2012 Newbery Medal. His memoir, Hole in My Life, won the Michael L. Printz and Robert F. Sibert Honors. Jack's follow-up to Hole in My Life is The Trouble in Me He also teaches courses in children's book writing and children's literature. He dev.eloped the master's degree program in children's book writing at Emerson College and the Vermont College M.F.A. program for children's book writers.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gr. 5^-7. No one could ever accuse Gantos of presenting a too-rosy view of childhood; none of his many middle-school fans would ever want him to. His books about Jack Henry (this is his fourth) succeed precisely because they present a hilarious, exquisitely painful, and utterly on-target depiction of the life of an adolescent and preadolescent boy. In this entry, a prequel to the earlier novels, episodic chapters chronicle Jack's experiments with the thrills of living near train tracks, his attempts (with spectacular lack of success) to convince his teacher of his good taste, and his awe as he watches his father attempt to eat his way through a 72-ounce steak. As usual, Jack exhibits his fascination with all things disgusting, constantly struggling to sort out how boys are supposed to behave. The setting occasionally wobbles between the present and Gantos' own childhood, but the experiences and feelings depicted are completely up-to-date, and few other writers have dared to show such things as teacher favoritism toward girls. --Susan Dove Lempke

Publisher's Weekly Review

Gantos draws inspiration from his own childhood diaries in the fourth collection of stories about Jack Henry. In these nine tales, his aggravations include his annoying older sister, some crazy cats, a tapeworm and a pair of escaped convicts. Ages 10-up. (Sept.)n (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Gr 4-6-This fourth book in a series of loosely knit autobiographical stories featuring Gantos's alter ego, Jack Henry, is a prequel to Heads or Tails (Farrar, 1994). Once again, the boy's peripatetic family has moved, this time from North Carolina to Miami. While the geographical location is different, much remains the same in Jack's life: an unbearable older sister and pesky younger brother, his love and admiration for his Dad, chronic problems with pets, and encounters with a number of unusual characters. But what most defines the boy is his absolute captivation with anything disgusting. Indeed, the short story he composes for school about his friend's tapeworm makes Thomas Rockwell's How to Eat Fried Worms (Yearling, 1953) seem like a picnic. But, even with his irresistible fascination with the gross and the weird, Jack is a likable and appealing fifth grader. His first-person preadolescent musings and worries are poignant, funny, and real. While his generous imagination may take him to extremes, his intentions are good; he strives to do the right thing, although circumstances seem invariably to get in the way of the intended outcome. These nine stories range from the macabre to the hilarious and from the surreal to the quirky. They will touch a familiar chord with readers who are struggling to figure out a world that seems complex and confusing.-Connie Tyrrell Burns, Mahoney Middle School, South Portland, ME (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.