Stuff Happens: Jack

Penguin Books, 2014

About the book
Reviews

Finally, I’m collaborating with a Daddo.

Whilst it would have been nice to be Aide #1 to Cameron Daddo’s Aide #2 on The West Wing, the whole ‘not being an actor’ put paid to that.

Instead, I have written a book – Jack in the ‘Stuff Happens’ series, to stand alongside Andrew Daddo’s Ned in the same series. ‘Stuff Happens’ is the brainchild of Susannah McFarlane, and is set in Grade 5 at Monvale Primary School. The stories are ‘real-life’ in nature, and as more titles unfold, different boys in Monvale’s Grade 5 classrooms will carry different story-lines. The brief was to create emotionally challenging situations for our protagonists, because books for boys are often slanted towards fantasy/adventure stories, rather than everyday challenges at home and school.

My story is about a recess game that goes wrong. It’s called ‘You Play, You Pay’, and is a violent shoe-kicking game that might be recognisable to readers of Making News. We really did play this game at my school, and the boys of Monvale enjoy the same bittersweet experience. Yes, it’s exciting. Yes, it’s silly. Yes, it’s ridiculously fun. But there is a sort of inevitability as to where a game called ‘You Play, You Pay’ is going to end up.

For Jack, it’s the emergency ward in chapter two.

But physical pain ends up being less of a problem for my protagonist than feelings of guilt caused by not telling the truth. In order to minimise possible punishment for playing a banned game, Jack lies to the Principal about the type of game it was. This is fine for all involved, except the boy who tackled him, a hefty but ungainly fringe member of the friendship group – a kid named Fadi.

Fadi wears the blame for Jack’s injury, despite Jack being the inventor of You Play, You Pay. When Fadi is going to miss a much-anticipated clinic with A-League professional soccer stars, Jack’s conscience finds full voice.

Will Jack do the right thing?

Will Fadi get to go to the clinic?

Will Jack meet his soccer heroes?

Will Jack’s mum stop hugging him in public all the time?

Is Dario Argento meant to be Mark Schwarzer?

What the hell is ‘Booksnatcher’, and why are they playing it at detention?

Check out Jack.  And Andrew Daddo’s Ned. Phillip Gwynne’s Michael and Will Kostakis’ Sean. An ebook is available too.

There’s a first chapter sample on the Penguin website.

Here is me playing You Play You Pay against Shane Crawford on Kids WB.

“I will be honest – I did not expect to enjoy this as much as I did! Books about (and aimed at) primary-school boys with lots of sporting activities and playground roughhousing are not generally my cup of tea. But Jack, beautifully written by Tony Wilson, is just such a lovely character to spend time with. Each book in the Stuff Happens series is told from the perspective of a different character and Jack is an easy, gentle companion. He instantly draws you into his world and within the first couple of pages Wilson made me care deeply about Jack’s life and problems. The book is very easy to relate to and I think that it really encourages engaged reading and emotional literacy amongst younger readers as it deals with the relationships between the boys in a way that is, unfortunately, uncommon in junior fiction. It’s perfect for readers aged 7–9 to read independently. – Isobel Moore, Readings St Kilda” - Isolbel Moore, Readings
“Having forgotten to keep a ball on the oval to play with at recess time, Jack invents the game 'You Play, You Pay'. Despite the fact the school rules have banned games involving tackling; it somehow creeps into the rules for Jack's new game. When Fadi tackles Jack, he accidentally breaks his friend's arm! Knowing they had disobeyed the rules, the boys fabricate a story explaining how the accident has occurred. This in turn leads to severe punishment for Fadi and Jack being unable to try out for the Vipers soccer team. Gradually, guilt overcomes Jack and he decides to tell the truth about what has happened. Will the punishment be greater or will matters somehow be resolved to suit everyone? Based on every day events, easily recognisable to most children, presented in a large, double spaced type face, this story should prove to be accessible to most boys from about year four and above. Containing vocabulary that is simple and written in everyday language used by kids, even less capable students may be engaged by this book. Written in the first person in Jack's voice and with themes of school, friends, truth versus lies, loyalty and soccer, it would probably hold more appeal to boys than girls. Full review” - Jo Schenkel ReadPlus
“The new series of junior fiction called Stuff Happens is a realistic and up-close look into the lives of grade five boys at Monvale Primary School. Stuff happens sometimes; kids find themselves in all sorts of dilemmas and debacles and this relatable series will have children giggling, understanding and commiserating as they follow the student’s plight. In one of the first novels of the series, Jack finds himself at the bottom of a “stacks on” with a broken arm. The problem, besides the arm, is that amid the commotion, the blame for the accident gets unfairly directed. Jack has to overcome his own nerves and concerns to do the right thing and set the record straight. We really enjoy the smack of reality this book brings, especially to an age-group where there is a great deal of fantasy available. From the internal battles of right and wrong to the politics of the schoolyard, this is a fun and eventful book for primary school boys to enjoy. Full review” - ReviewZoo
“  Friendships are tested as the boys struggle with telling the truth, letting someone else take the blame & accepting responsibility. Each chapter ends with a little emoticon graph that Jack highlights to show his feelings at each stage of the story. Wilson tells his tale lightly with humour and sensitivity. The boys sound and act just like the boys I know. This is an affectionate and authentic portrayal of an Australian school yard. I loved it. My stepson is now 14 and sadly, not an avid reader. But I asked him to put his 10 yr old hat on & read this story for me because I wanted his honest feedback. He promptly donned his old Spongebob cap and read Jack in one sitting whilst having his afternoon tea. He said it was 'great because it was real'. He liked the boys and empathised with their dilemma and he thought the soccer scenes sounded authentic. I had a quick peek at the first few chapters of Ned by Andrew Daddo. It revealed another well written, engaging story about the start of the school year....and getting the dreaded, most feared teacher as your new class teacher. These first two books in the Stuff Happens series have set a high standard. I cannot recommend these books to you & your 7 - 11 boy highly enough! Full review” - Brona Joy, Brona's Books page
“by Riley, aged 11, Kids' Book Reviews Stuff happens, right? Well, with this book in the series, Jack had done a mistake on the oval at lunchtime, with his friends. It's a game that is forbidden at school and things soon become dramatic. I really like this book because of its funny, nice, simple font and interesting story. All this is very necessary to publish a wonderful book. I really like how the smiley faces change through the book depending on how Jack is feeling. My opinion is that the cover of the book makes you want to read it. Andrew has stretched himself, putting some great words into this book. I think its time to give Andrew Daddo some credit and what a great deal for $10. Recommended age is probably around 6-10. The publisher of this series is Penguin Group.  ” - Riley, aged 11, Kids' Book Reviews
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jack cover featured
  • Wilson made me care deeply about Jack’s life and problems. The book is very easy to relate to and I think that it really encourages engaged reading and emotional literacy amongst younger readers as it deals with the relationships between the boys in a way that is, unfortunately, uncommon in junior fiction.

    Isolbel Moore, Readings

    See all reviews
  • Containing vocabulary that is simple and written in everyday language used by kids, even less capable students may be engaged by this book.

    Jo Schenkel ReadPlus

    See all reviews
  • "We really enjoy the smack of reality this book brings, especially to an age-group where there is a great deal of fantasy available."

    ReviewZoo

    See all reviews
  • Wilson tells his tale lightly with humour and sensitivity. The boys sound and act just like the boys I know. ... I cannot recommend these books to you & your 7 - 11 boy highly enough!

    Brona Joy, Brona's Books page

    See all reviews
  • "I really like how the smiley faces change through the book depending on how Jack is feeling"

    Riley, aged 11, Kids' Book Reviews

    See all reviews