Happy Jack, Sad Jack: A Bullying Story
Mark Bello (author) Melinda Taliancich Falgoust (illustrator)
8Grand Publications (2022)
Reviewed by Amy Lignor for Reader Views (03/2022)
Mark Bello is an author who succeeds in many genres. Although I was exposed to his amazing thrillers and suspense novels years ago, I was just recently given a cookbook (which is beyond impressive), and this first book in Mark’s “Social Justice/Safety Series for Children.” I was not only thrilled with the read, I was entertained, touched, and immediately read it to my grandchildren. Why? Because the point of this book is a strong one that all children need to read and understand.
Bullying, unfortunately, is still a huge problem to this day. I truly wish it wasn’t, but every child is open to teasing and taunting that breaks their hearts and causes pain in their life that they do not deserve. Childhood is supposed to be fun; a time to enjoy life before that adult realm of working, paying bills, and worrying comes into play. And all of us parents and grandparents need to find a way to make our beloved youth feel happiness, and not have to struggle at such an early age. Which is why Jack, in this tale, is the perfect character for all our children to meet.
Told in the perfect rhyming style, Jack is a boy who comes from a mixed-race family; he loves “jumping, playing, and flying kites.” He also loves his parents dearly, as well as his baby brother, Dylan, and his puppy, Banjo.
It is time to start school in September and Jack is five, so he will be starting his very first day of kindergarten. He’s really excited (even though Mom will miss him during the day). Ms. Reed is his teacher and she makes all the students laugh and have fun. Jack’s day was going very well, but when it comes time for recess, a boy pushes Jack. Jack falls on his knee and starts to cry. He wouldn’t tell the teacher what happened because he was taught not to tattle on others, but he felt very sad. Unfortunately, each day the mean kid keeps hurting Jack until, finally Jack gets so sad that he refuses to go to school. When his parents make an appointment and bring him in to the principal’s office, Jack finally has to tell that he was being bullied because he’s Black, and the principal promises he will bring in the parents of this boy so they’ll all have a meeting to get this situation stopped. The mean boy’s parents were not happy with their son, stating that he had not learned this kind of behavior at home. After the mean boy is suspended for punishment, the principal announces to all pupils that no one will be or should be bullied—not for color, race, religion, or anything that makes them unique individuals.
Jack did become happy again, but the author made sure that his point of view (the right point of view) was heard. In the end, all of us are human beings and should be treated with respect. That is one very important lesson our children and grandchildren need to learn and understand—not to mention the many adults who still act like bullies even though they should definitely know better than that by now. Respect one another, no matter how old you are, and this world will be a far better place.
The author not only wrote a great, poignant book; the illustrator also did a fantastic job with the hand-drawn, colorful pictures. Jack was absolutely adorable, and the illustrations of the school, the playground, the bus – everything was perfectly done. Bravo!