Monday, 3 January 2011

My Life That Books Built #1: Little Jacko and the Wolf People

Since I started writing this blog I have interviewed quite a few authors, many of whom I have asked the question: "What books did you enjoy as a child?". This is a question I have been asked many times as a teacher, and it has occasionally led to lengthy discussions about the difference between kids books then and now. I have now decided to run a semi-regular feature on The Book Zone where I go back over some of the books that I loved as a child or teenager. I say semi-regular as I am not sure I will be able to find the time to make it a weekly feature, but I do intend all of the posts to go live on a Monday morning. I hope you will get some small enjoyment from reading about the books that have made me the reader I am today - I am sure you will find at least one that will strike a similar chord in your heart.

To kick start this feature I thought I would begin with the first picture book that I can remember owning: Little Jacko and the Wolf People, with words by Margaret Greaves and pictures by Jill McDonald. As you can see by the photos I still have the very same copy that I was given as a small child - it was published by Methuen in 1973 so I am guessing that I really was very young when I received it.

The book tells the story of Jacko, a young settler in the Wild West, who has always dreamt of driving a train. However, the only train in Silver Springs is the one that brought the settlers there long ago, and is now old and rusty and no longer usable. Early in the story Jacko saves the life of Watahuni, a Native American boy and as a reward he is made a brother of the boy's tribe, the Wolf People. One night he stumbles across a group of bandits who are plotting to attack the settlers and then the tribe, in search of "Indian gold". It os down to jacko and his new friends to save the day.

As a child (and now as an adult) I loved the beautifully coloured illustrations of Jill McDonald, as well as the story of friendship and adventure. Just look at these pictures - they are surely up there with some of the best in picture books today. This book has been long out of print but a couple of years ago I managed to find a cheap secondhand copy that I gave to my godson's little brother as a Christmas present - it has now become a favourite read in that household as well.


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