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Title: Jack at the HelmJack at the Helm is the third book in Lisa Doan's Berenson Schemes series, which chronologically follows Jack the Castaway and Jack and the Wildlife. Despite being the third book in the series, it was my first time reading about Jack and his wacky, irresponsible parents - and I wasn't disappointed! I was able to quickly jump into the series and easily immersed myself in Jack's world.
Author: Lisa Doan
Pub. Date: April 1, 2015
Genre: Middle Grade
Rec. Age Level: 8-12
More by this author: Jack the Castaway, Jack and the Wildlife
Jack's parents have bought a farmhouse in Nepal. It'll be the site of a new religion--their latest get-rich-quick scheme. Sure, the Berensons don't know quite how to get to the place. But once they arrive, their plan is sure to work.
From the first pages of Jack at the Helm, I found myself laughing at Jack's parents' antics. It hard not to find the Berenson's amusing with all their eccentricities. Jack is clearly the responsible one in the family, but it's also obvious that his parents love him - even though their grand schemes are often misguided and shortsighted, much to Jack's dismay. This particular installment sends the Berenson's to Nepal, where they have purchased a house via the internet (for $500). Jack's parents have decided to start their own religion call Nosnereb, which will be headquarted in Nepal. Despite Jack's protests that buying a house via the internet is a horrible idea and that you can't actually just start your own religion, his parent's drag him along to Nepal, where things immediately spiral out of control.
The story moves along quickly and Doan fits an immense amount of action and even a few deep conversations, disguised by humor, into this slim volume. Jack at the Helm is 145 pages which felt just right for this adventure. I can easily see this books - and I imagine the first two books as well - being a hit with reluctant readers.
In addition to the action and humor, there's some really fantastic moments of depth within Jack at the Helm. For example, Harry, an 18-year old who teams up with Jack while lost in Nepal, is traveling the world trying to find himself. Jack helps Harry figure out that he likes to make people happy, travel, and that he loves sweets, so his perfect career might be owning an ice cream truck. Yes, Jack and Harry's conversation is goofy and will likely make readers laugh, but there's a big idea within that little conversation about embracing what you love and are passionate about, then translating those passions into tangible and achievable goals.
Though Jack at the Helm resolves with Jack in a calm (and safe!) place, I can't help but hope he'll find himself wrapped up in another Berenson scheme. I wonder what in the world his parents will come up with next!
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