I have ALWAYS enjoyed works of the absurd; the theatre of Eugene Ionesco, the stories of Nikolai Gogol, the books of Roald Dahl. Now I’ll include Philippa Dowding to that list!
This book is about twelve year old Jake who is off to visit his grandfather. Jake spends some time with some older kids who live nearby, and who love to tell scary stories that are supposed to be true, about their town. On this particular night, they tell the story about when a local farmer discovered a giant hand, wearing a wedding ring, in the middle of his field, and how giant flies, as large as birds, buzzed the area. Jake doesn’t want to believe the story, but when he questions the local adults, they all try to change the subject, even Jake’s grandpa! Jake does a little investigating, and gets a little more than he bargained for!
Written for young readers (Fourth grade? Fifth grade?), it manages to treat the reader with respect; it doesn’t write ‘down’ to them, or try to explain every moment. It puts us, reader, in the story by letting us experience what Jake experiences, without explaining it all away. We are just as lost and scared as Jake, and we come to the same conclusions that Jake does (especially what the mysterious white stone is, down in the ground, that he and his grandfather uncovered while digging a post hole). The fear that builds is completely accurate and in line with the sort of fear a twelve year old might have after listening to a scary story.
The best part of the book, however, as I alluded to earlier, is the absurdity that this horrific, spooky story, could actually be true. There is no clear answer. In fact, all the evidence — physical evidence! — suggests the tale is true, but Jake also knows that it can’t possibly be true, and yet …. This is a great way to maintain creative thinking and a love of reading in our young readers.
I highly recommend this book!
Looking for a good book? Jake and Giant Hand is part mystery, part young-reader-horror, part adventure, which rolled together under Philippa Dowding’s creativity, is all genius.
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Jake and the Giant Hand
author: Philippa Dowding
paperback, 136 pages