Cover image for The mostly true story of Jack
The mostly true story of Jack
Barnhill, Kelly Regan.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Little, Brown, [2011]

Physical Description:
323 pages ; 20 cm
Jack is practically invisible at home, but when his parents send him to Hazelwood, Iowa, to spend a summer with his odd aunt and uncle, he suddenly makes friends, is beaten up by the town bully, and is plotted against by the richest man in town.
Reading Level:
740 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR MG 5.0 10.0 145484.

Reading Counts RC 6-8 4.5 17 Quiz: 55249.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
J FICTION Juvenile Fiction Open Shelf

On Order



Newbery Medal-winner Kelly Barnhill's debut novel is an eerie tale of magic, friendship, and sacrifice.

Enter a world where magic bubbles just below the surface. . . .

When Jack is sent to Hazelwood, Iowa, to live with his strange aunt and uncle, he expects a summer of boredom. Little does he know that the people of Hazelwood have been waiting for him for quite a long time. When he arrives, he begins to make actual friends for the first time in his life-but the town bully beats him up and the richest man in town begins to plot Jack's imminent, and hopefully painful, demise. It's up to Jack to figure out why suddenly everyone cares so much about him. Back home he was practically... invisible.

The Mostly True Story of Jack is a stunning debut novel about things broken, things put back together, and finding a place to belong.

"There's a dry wit and playfulness to Barnhill's writing that recalls Lemony Snicket and Blue Balliett...a delightfully unusual gem." -- Los Angeles Times

Author Notes

Kelly Barnhill is a children's book author. Her novels include The Mostly True Story of Jack, Iron Hearted Violet, The Witch's Boy, and The Girl Who Drank the Moon, which received the 2017 John Newbery Medal. She has also received the World Fantasy Award, the Parents Choice Gold Award, the Texas Library Association Bluebonnet award, and a Charlotte Huck Honor.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

*Starred Review* When his parents' marriage unravels, Jack is sent from San Francisco to live with his eccentric aunt and uncle in Iowa. The experience is a revelation for Jack who is accustomed to being virtually invisible at home and school as he finds that he has friends who are as odd as his aunt and uncle. Then he is noticed and beaten up by a bully, and the powerful town villain seems to target him also with dark plans. What's going on here? The answers are not given up easily, and that's just one facet of this delightful puzzle of a book that is filled with wonders and magic, yes, but magic that is ancient, numinous, and tied to the natural world. Readers are tacitly invited to help untangle this deep and complex web. Barnhill's first novel for children is a marvel of both plotting and characterization, provide a foundation for the omnipresent magic that elevates this title to the first rank of contemporary children's literature. Best of all, an open ending suggests the possibility of a sequel. Readers can only hope.--Cart, Michael Copyright 2010 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

In her first novel, children's nonfiction author Barnhill quickly establishes a sense of foreboding in the town of Hazelwood, Iowa, as Jack-ignored by and invisible to his parents, who are divorcing-moves in with his eccentric aunt and uncle, whose house appears to be possessed. Slowly, Jack befriends some locals, including 14-year-old twins Wendy and Frankie, the latter scarred and silent years after a childhood disappearance, and the eerily psychic Anders. Jack also becomes the focus of a town bully and an evil patriarch who cultivates power through magic; tension mounts as Jack provokes the supernatural forces that cause children and buildings to disappear. Suspense builds steadily, with twists and surprises woven throughout, and friendship emerges as a powerful theme. "Given that he didn't really know what it was like to have friends, Jack didn't realize until that very moment that he missed Wendy and that he had been very lonely for the last few days." Barnhill explores the struggle between good and evil and the power of love and sacrifice, creating a provocative and highly original mystery. Ages 8-12. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

School Library Journal Review

Gr 5-8-Jack is accustomed to being ignored and having no friends, but he doesn't want to spend the summer in Hazelwood, Iowa, with his aunt and uncle. The town feels weird, magical almost, if a person believes in magic, which Jack does not. Everyone in town seems to recognize him, although he has never been there before. Jack makes his first real friends, is bullied, and the most powerful man in town is plotting the boy's death. Jack soon learns about the secret history of Hazelwood, about the magic gone wrong and about the Lady who whisks children away to her secret underground world where she steals their souls. When his friend Wendy disappears, Jack knows he is the only one who can bring her back and restore the magical balance. During his short summer in Hazelwood, Jack learns about friendship and his place in the world. Luke Daniels masterfully narrates Kelly Barnhill's tale (Little Brown, 2011), bringing even the minor characters to life and creating suspense from the first sentence. A fine choice for reluctant readers.-Amanda Rollins, Northwest Village School, Plainville, CT (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.