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Heads or Tails by Jack Gantos

Heads or Tails

by Jack Gantos

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1094110,750 (3.75)4



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ack lives a heads or tails life when one flip of the coin can change his life for good or bad. While the coin consistently flips on the loosing side, he finds adventure and drama at each turn.

With a father who cannot seem to find the right job, nor can he keep it, living in six rental homes in five years keeps him hoping and navigating different rules and different schools.

A sister who is bratty and cruel, a little brother who is insistent of wanting Jack's attention, and a mother who does the best she can through it all, Jack never misses opportunity to get in trouble.

Written from Jack's perspective, the style if funny and engaging. I laughed out loud at some of these exploits.

While poverty isn't funny, the stories told made me want to walk along with Jack and see the world through his humorous eyes. ( )
  Whisper1 | Aug 31, 2014 |
An enjoyable read, particularly for boys, and for readers who are just working their way up to chapter books. It is broken down into 8 distinct stories, which may make the length easier to manage. ( )
  kschorn | Feb 8, 2013 |
· Jack (about 10) – a middle child who is developing an identity of his own by copying others.
· Betsey – (about 16) Jack’s older intolerant big sister (usually the subject of Jack’s copying).
· Pete – (about 4) Jack’s little brother, and main responsibility.
· Mom – works at a bank, loves the Vienna Boy’s Choir
· Dad – frequently out of work former stunt pilot, who dreams of inventions and better times
o Diary-like, illustrated chapter pages portray the diary mentioned in the book
o Jack can’t figure out what to write in his diary (he insisted on one after his sister started one) so he smashes some of Florida’s many bugs between the pages
o Colorful cover illustrations depict memorable moments
o Very interesting snapshot of childhood in Florida during the late sixties. Alligators, golf, Ft. Lauderdale, Morrison’s Cafeteria
o Cultural references; The Sound of Music, Cocoa Beach boom, Planet of the Apes, Godzilla
o Hilarious neighbors and cast of characters; the crazy stinky criminal Pagoda family, burnt out teacher, UFO abducted uncle, bug laden diary,

Subjects/topics/themes: death of an extended family member, family ties, moving, school, diary,
Related titles: Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, Sugar Babies.
Annotation: Jack is always the new kid in school, and has a hard time being his own person. In discovering who he is, he also comes to know the value of family in a funny and introspective journey
  mmmahaffey | Feb 25, 2009 |
Wendy H. Bell (The ALAN Review, Spring 1995 (Vol. 22, No. 3))
The entries in Jack's diary reflect his "heads-you-win, tails-you-lose" life. If his teacher, Mrs. Marshall, isn't giving him a hard time at school (his fifth school in six years), his older sister, Betsy, and bratty younger brother, Pete, nearly do him in. Jack's escapades during his sixth-grade year are funny and well-written. His original characters are memorable because they are real. There is also a certain poignancy when the family's hoped-for move to another city and higher income does not materialize, but the author maintains the overall brisk pace and wry tone that make this book delightful reading. Middle schoolers, in particular, will enjoy Heads or Tails: Stories From the Sixth Grade. 1994, Farrar Straus and Giroux, 151 pp., $16.00. Ages 12 up.
  connieh1433 | May 23, 2007 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0374429235, Paperback)

From the Newbery Medal–winning author of Dead End in Norvelt, eight more hysterical semi-autobiographical Jack Henry stories about a sixth grader’s trials and tribulations


Jack’s life is a crazy roller-coaster ride. At his fifth school in six years, he has a crackpot teacher who won’t give him a break about his lousy handwriting and a secret crush who wants to be a policewoman. At home, he has a pesky little brother with a knack for getting hurt whenever Jack’s supposed to be looking after him, a terror for an older sister, all sorts of weird neighbors, and, last but not least, ferocious alligators in the canal behind his house.

Writing in his diary about his good days and bad days is one way Jack survives his up-and-down year. But he’s also a kid who knows that life can go any which way at any given moment.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:24:35 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Jack's diary helps him deal with his problems which include dog-eating alligators, a terror for an older sister, a younger brother who keeps breaking parts of himself, and next-door neighbors who are really weird.

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