Just Jack

2018 Quality Fiction Shortlist

So here it is...

the NSTBA 2018 Quality Fiction shortlist.


A Story Like the Wind      Gill Lewis, illustrated by Jo Weaver

OUP     ISBN: 978-0192758958

You can read the long list review here.


Song of the Dolphin Boy  Elizabeth Laird

Macmillan Children's   ISBN: 978-1509828234

You can read the long list review here.


Mark of the Cyclops: An Ancient Greek Mystery     Saviour Pirotta

Bloomsbury     ISBN: 978-1472934147

You can read the long list review here.



Just Jack    Kate Scott 

Piccadilly    ISBN: 978-1848126244

You can read the long list review here.

Congratulations to all! The winners will be announced at the awards ceremony on the 10th November. 



Moving house and being the new kid in school are never easy, but since his dad left, Jack and his mum have moved five times in two years. To help him cope, Jack has developed Sherlock code- a survival strategy he employs to help him fit in. He doesn't make friends and is constantly pretending to be someone he isn't, but it helps him get through. 

At school number six, however, he meets Tyler. Funny, clever and inventive, Tyler seems to like Jack and want to be friends- but can Jack allow himself to be 'Just Jack'?

As with 'Giant', Kate Scott shows great skill at writing very likeable characters which are so easy to empathise with. Jack is trying to cope with a situation many children sadly find themselves in- with his father gone, he doesn't want to bother anyone, particularly his mum, with his feelings. His way of coping to to not be himself, but hide behind different personas. Tyler is a fabulously fresh, unique individual whose enthusiasm is infectious. Friendship is really at the heart of the story and it is a joy to read as they come to know each other and their friendship develops. Mr Tull is also well portrayed; it is a joy to see a warm, sympathetic teacher who relates well to his pupils in a children's story!

The book offers plenty of humorous moments as well as emotional ones. There is so much to discuss and enjoy, making it perfect for using as a key text in class or for guided reading.

Just Jack    Kate Scott 

Piccadilly    ISBN: 978-1848126244

You can read another review of 'Just Jack' here.

You can read a review of 'Giant' here.


Just Jack

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Being the new kid at school is not easy, but being the new kid 5 times in 2 years is probably as difficult as it gets.

Yet this is where we find Jack.

Since his dad left, he and his Mum have travelled from place to place, never staying anywhere long enough to change the wallpaper but making Jack a world class expert in packing and a coping mechanism he employs at school that he calls the ‘Sherlock Code’.

One of the main rules of the ‘code’ is you don’t stand out, you remain unnoticed- yes, this means you don’t make friends but in this way you protect your feelings-Jack believes this has been a successful survival strategy  in schools 1-5 but now, at school 6, he has met Tyler.

Tyler is different; he makes wacky but extremely useful inventions; he is fun to be around and despite Jack’s ‘code’, Tyler seems to see the real Jack and what’s more he seems to like what he sees!

Reluctant to break his self preservation rules but intrigued by Tyler, Jack allows a friendship to bloom. As his mum unpacks their possessions in a home where she says they will stay, Jack unpacks his personality and is just becoming comfortable with what it is like to be ’Just Jack’ when everything starts to go wrong.

Through Jack’s narrative, the reader explores the complex emotions of an 11 year old who is struggling with his parents' separation, his now unfamiliar relationship with his Dad and all the while trying to fit into a new environment. Jack’s story is realistic and he makes mistakes which as a shared read would provide plenty of  opportunities for discussion.

This page-turning novel has many moments which will make the reader smile (and possibly head to the kitchen to make their own disgusting sandwich!) But also within Jack’s story there are moments of pure everyday beauty - surprising for what at first seems such a simple plot.

The chapter ‘Funny Voices’ is just one example of the quality of Kate Scott’s writing. In it, Jack remembers his younger self awaiting the return of his Dad in airport arrivals; by the end paragraph  I tearfully had to close the book and ponder, lost in one of those deliciously tingly ‘this is amazing’ moments, which are created by great books. I do hope this will have the same effect on the children I share this book with - it is those moments that make readers.

‘Just Jack’ is not just an enjoyable, pacy, real- life story, with wonderful likeable characters -it is a masterclass in empathy that would make a fantastic ‘Guided read’.

Just Jack   Kate Scott

Piccadilly Press    ISBN: 978-1848126244