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I Am Jack : I Am Jack - Susanne Gervay

I Am Jack

I Am Jack

By: Susanne Gervay, Cathy Wilcox (Illustrator)

Paperback Published: March 2000
ISBN: 9780207199059
Number Of Pages: 144
For Ages: 10+ years old

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Life is good for Jack. He's a great photographer, he wins at handball, and time at home with his family is never boring. But when big George Hamel starts calling Jack 'Butt Head,' school becomes a little less great. And when everyone starts calling him 'Butt Head,' it gets outright dangerous.

Susanne Gervay's thoughtful story sheds light on the contagious and destructive nature of school bullying, and the power of humor, love, and community to overcome it.

About The Author

Susanne Gervay is an award-winning author based in Sydney, Australia. She hopes you love I Am Jack, which was inspired by her son, Jack, who won the battle against school bullying. Susanne has received the Lady Culter Award for Distinguished Services to Children's Literature in Australia, and an Outstanding Professional Achievement Award in writing by University of Technology Sydney. She is the director of the Kids and Young Adult Literature Festival, and heads the Sydney Children's Writers & Illustrators Network. Her books are endorsed by many organizations, including Room to Read.

Mom, will you listen?

Mom's talking to Nanna. She said she'd only be a minute. That is such a lie. A minute means an hour in Mom time.

Oh no, I'm right. Mom has put the kettle on. She's going to the cupboard. Two mugs, crackers, cheese, and tomatoes. Poor Nanna. Mom is always on a diet. Nanna won't like those crackers and cheese. That doesn't mean Nanna is thin, or even sort of average. No, she is definitely round and walks with a wobble and she loves cookies. I love cookies too. Mom is average in height and weight, except she hates her thighs and the top of her arms. She is very funny when she starts to do jumping jacks in the middle of making chicken soup. Mom's short blonde hair fluffs up when she jumps. My sister, Samantha, loves it when Mom does that and she jumps with her. It wasn't so funny when Mom did it in the parking lot the other day. What if someone from school saw her? I told Mom that I wouldn't help her with the shopping if she goes nuts like that in the parking lot.

'Mom. I've got to talk to you.'

'Yes, Jack.'

I give her the stare. She knows it is private.

'Jack, Nanna and I are talking about something important. Can it wait?'

No. It can't. 'Mom, I need to talk.' I grit my teeth. Mom can see I'm stressed.

'All right, then.' Mom and Nanna look at me.

This is PRIVATE, Mom. Nanna's grinning at me. It is VERY private. I give Mom the eye. Like she has to know. I want to speak to her alone. But what does she do? She just sits there with Nanna waiting. Mom always says I can talk to her anytime about anything. It doesn't look like it, does it?

Nanna interrupts. 'What is it Jack?' She smiles with her brand-new teeth. Her last ones fell out at the dinner table. She was so embarrassed when we went teeth hunting under the table. I found them but two of the front ones had fallen out and the left front tooth was cracked.

'It's nothing, Nanna.' But it is not nothing. It is really hard to talk about this and it has taken me ages not to feel guilty about bringing it up. I sigh loudly, but Mom just eats crackers and Nanna's a bit deaf. They start talking again. I give up. Mom doesn't care about me and I'm in a rotten mood. I might as well bother my sister. Samantha's one year younger than me. That means she's ten and a good person to bother.

Samantha's bedroom door is open. She's doing her hair. She's always doing her hair. How stupid is that? How can someone do their hair for hours?

'Just go away, Jack. What are you laughing at? Go away.' Samantha's ears have gone red. You can see her red ears really well, because she's put her hair back in two bunches. She ignores me. I run my fingers through my prickly hair. Mom's boyfriend, Rob, cut my hair two weeks ago with his new hair clippers. It didn't take long and it looked great. He shaved it close to my head. Sort of bald really. Mom was so mad and that's really rare for Mom.

Rob always gets a number two cut, which is quite short. Mom doesn't mind it on him. Why is she worried about my haircut? Usually I've got straight, brown, ordinary hair. My hair is growing out a little and when I put gel in it, it stands up. I really like that. Mom has been better about my hair and laughs every time she sees it now. She calls me Prickly. Samantha says it looks great and she'd know. I think Samantha is going to be a hairdresser when she grows up.

I'm going to check if Mom and Nanna have stopped talking. I stick my head through the doorway. Notice me, notice me, pleasssse. . . . 'Yes, Jack darling.' Mom looks at the doorway.

Mom knows she is not allowed to call me darling. The last time Christopher heard her call me darling, he kept repeating it for ages. 'Darling Jack, come and have a look at this.' 'Jack, darling, let us play ball.' 'Darlingest, let us go to the park.' Eventually he stopped, because I ignored him and he got bored with calling me darling. When I told Mom NOT to call me darling, she said she wouldn't, but she doesn't understand why and she breaks down and forgets.

'Mom, don't call me darling. You promised.'

'But you are my darling.'

'Mom, we've had this discussion before and just please, don't.' I look at Nanna. 'Is Nanna going home now?'

'Soon, Jack. Do you want Nanna to leave?' That's such a mean question. As if I would hurt Nanna's feelings like that. Luckily Nanna didn't hear the question. I told you she's a bit deaf.

'No, Mom. I want Nanna to stay,' but just NOT NOW. Oh no, Mom makes another cup of coffee.

They go back to their endless talking. It's about Rob. This could take hours.

'Rob changed the oil in my car over the weekend.' I can do that too, Mom.

'Rob helped carry up the groceries.' You know I do that Mom.

Rob took Mom to the movies on Saturday night, and left us at home to mind Nanna.

Mom is thinking of letting Rob move in. He already lives with us four days a week. That's enough. I like Rob a lot, but it's always been Mom and us before and, of course, Nanna visiting. Mom talks so much about him. I think she is sort of lonely. Not lonely for kids or Nanna or friends, but lonely for a dad. I don't want Mom to be lonely.

Rob, Rob, Rob . . . BORING. I'm going back to see Samantha. 'Knock, knock.'

'Go away, Jack,' Samantha says.

'Say, 'who's there?''

Samantha huffs. 'Will you go away if I do?'

'Yes,' I lie.

'Okay. Who's there?'

'Samantha.'

'Samantha who?'

'Don't you know your own name? Ha. Ha. Ha.'

'That was very unfunny, Jack. Very, very unfunny. And you think you're a comedian!' Samantha goes back to combing her hair.

Samantha is in for it now. I make great jokes. 'Look at your hair. Ha. Ha.'

'What's wrong with my hair?' Samantha lifts up her chin. 'Jack, you're being irritating.'

'Oh yeah. Who'd wear their hair in pigtails? Only a pig. Squeak. Oink.'

Samantha flicks the ends of her pigtails up, making her light brown hair bounce.

'Leave, Jack. LEAVE.'

I slump onto Samantha's pale blue quilt and make a big lump up one end and a big hole in the middle.

'Get off my bed, Jack.' Samantha turns her back on me and concentrates on sprinkling gold sparkles into her hair.

I make myself really comfortable and lie back on the quilt, looking around. Samantha's room is the most color-coordinated, tidy room I've ever seen. Everything is in pastel and creams and pale blue. Her schoolbooks are piled on one side of her desk and her writing paper is right in the middle. Perfectly framed pictures of a dolphin, a seal and a photo of Puss, our cat, hang on the wall. I look at the photo. Puss looks great in it. Her eyes stare at you and her coal-black fur shines. Mom bought me a secondhand camera last Christmas. Not the digital automatic kind that does everything for you; an old professional one. I can adjust the lens, focus on the background or the foreground, make pictures dark and mysterious, or light and funny. I can take double exposures. I took the best picture of Mom holding up the sun.

My room is not very tidy, but it has character, definitely character. There are my schoolbooks piled on my desk. On my windowsill there are two jars with various life forms in them. I'm combining a few organic things. One jar smells. Something's not working, but the other one is the best. I've grafted an onion shoot onto an old wrinkled potato. Imagine how famous I'll be if I make a new vegetable. I already thought of a name. Jack's Po-onion. Samantha said the name sounded like poo. She's so stupid--but I have had second thoughts. There could be other people as stupid as Samantha, so maybe I will call my new vegetable Jack's Ponto.

I've got all my detention cards framed on my wall. Twenty-two detentions this year. A record. There is a toolbox in one corner. That's the neat corner. Anyone who touches my tools is dead meat. I'm making a coffee table for Mom at the moment and have had a few problems with the height. One leg is shorter than the other three and it is a little wobbly. I know Mom doesn't mind, but it would be awful if she and Nanna always have spilt coffee, and Nanna is a kind of clumsy these days.

My joke collection, car manuals, and photographs are on the top of my bookshelf.

Mom's voice makes me jump. 'Kids, Nanna's going now.'

Samantha puts away her ribbons and brushes, then runs to hug Nanna. I follow her. My job is to help Nanna down the stairs. Our condo is up three flights. Nanna finds it hard to walk these days. Last year she had a bad fall and broke her arm. Sometimes I get sad, because I remember Nanna playing ball with us and pushing Samantha on the swings. She can't do that anymore.

At last, Mom to myself. 'Mom, Mom.' She is making dinner already and Samantha's helping her with the pasta sauce.

'Later, Jack darling. When I'm finished making dinner.'

'Don't call me darling, Mom.' I slump onto the couch. Later. That's a joke. Rob will be here soon and then there will be dinner, washing up, and I have to have a shower and there's homework and television. Mom will be tired. There'll be NO time and I HAVE to talk to Mom.

I think I'm in BIG trouble.

ISBN: 9780207199059
ISBN-10: 0207199051
Series: I Am Jack
Audience: Children
For Ages: 10+ years old
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 144
Published: March 2000
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers (Australia) Pty Ltd
Country of Publication: AU
Dimensions (cm): 20.7 x 15.1  x 1.0
Weight (kg): 0.13
Edition Number: 1