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Jack Strong Takes a Stand    by Tommy Greenwald & Melissa Mendes order for
Jack Strong Takes a Stand
by Tommy Greenwald
Order:  USA  Can
Roaring Brook Press, 2013 (2013)
Hardcover, e-Book
* *   Reviewed by Anita Lock

'Life is short ... Too short to be doing things you don't want to do, but way too short to not be doing anything at all.' Those are the words of wisdom from Nana, Jack Strong's grandmother, which made a whole lot of sense to him, but not until he walked (or literally sat) through an incident that would be more life changing than he ever anticipated.

Jack considers himself to be an ordinary kid at Horace Henchell Middle School: he is a good student, gets good grades, and is not much of an athlete but is better at other things. His favorite thing in the world is, as he says, 'the couch.' Set in his family's living room, it is old and has stains. His mother has wanted to get rid of it many times, but Jack won't let her. This is the place where he can relax after school and watch his favorite TV shows, daydream about Cathy Billows, the girl he has a crush on, and cuddle with his dog, Maddie.

But his time relaxing on the couch is often way too short, because of the overscheduled week-long extracurricular activities that his dad set up for him. They include soccer, cello practice, tutoring, Chinese, Little League baseball, swimming, karate, youth orchestra, junior EMT's, and tennis. What a list! Jack obediently plods along day after day following his heavy schedule. However, it is not until his friends invite him to events that interfere with his extra curricular activities that Jack realizes how much he wishes for more free time to focus on things that interest him.

That's when he thinks back to his friend, Charlie Joe Jackson (from Tommy Greenwald's Charlie Joe Jackson's Guide To series), who took a stand last summer by not wanting to participate in another extra class at Camp Rituhbukkee. That was enough inspiration to make Jack's decision: he would go on strike by sitting in his favorite place.

With the exception of getting up to eat and go to the bathroom, Jack spends his time on the couch reading, watching TV, doing schoolwork that his best friend, Leo, brings over each day after school, and also playing cards with one of his biggest supporters, Nana. His father, of course, is not pleased with Jack's decision and makes many futile attempts to convince him otherwise. To make matters worse, Leo brings over his older brother, Marcus, who interviews Jack for the high school newspaper.

Jack's strike is no longer limited to the confines of his home when Marcus's article, entitled Horace Henchell Student Takes a Stand By Taking a Seat, is published. Jack, now the center of attention, receives a call from Brody Newhouse, who is the host of a local TV show called Kidz In the Newz and wants to feature him. Of course, the show takes off in a different direction, which only complicates matters. When Nana speaks, Jack realizes something valuable about life and makes the decision to call off the strike.

In this story set in three parts before, during, and after Tommy Greenwald cleverly takes an issue that is a real problem today between kids and their parents, and turns Jack Strong Takes a Stand into a hilarious yet thought-provoking story about over scheduling to prepare for college. It's sprinkled throughout with Melissa Mendes's comical illustrations; young as well as older readers will certainly enjoy this story to the very end.

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