Just a Story

by Jeff Mack (Author)

Just a Story
Reading Level: K − 1st Grade
Reading is wild, dangerous... fantastic! The possibilities are endless, the perils enormous--good thing it's just a story. A boy happens upon a discarded book that transforms a library into an escalating series of near misses and close encounters with dastardly pirates, a herd of scooter-riding elephants, a big blue whale, and is that an alien in an Elvis wig? But surprise, he escapes without a scratch, because it's just a story... With an exuberant art style reminiscent of newspaper comic strips, illustrator Jeff Mack brings imagination to life in this riotous tale about the power of reading.
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Publishers Weekly

Extolling literature's transportive properties, this picture book follows a child who discovers a magical purple tome at the library. As the brown-haired kid sits, absorbed, turning the book's pages, surprising characters begin appearing in the inclusively populated library. After narrowly missing capture by two pirates and a hungry lion, the young reader is "almost trampled by a herd of wild elephants/ and then almost stomped on/ by a big baby dragon," with wilder characters successively wreaking havoc. After the child leaves, hand in hand with a caretaker, another walks by with an elderly guardian and notices, then begins reading, the purple book. The motley fantastical cast reappears, emphasizing the universality and transcendence of a good story. Mack's cartoon illustrations include fun details (the elephants have scooters and patterned helmets) and bold color choices that impart a sense of modernity. A gently humorous reading adventure. Ages 3-7. (Sept.)

Copyright 2020 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

School Library Journal

K-Gr 2--A young white boy reads a book in a library, and the story comes alive; the library quickly is taken over by stampeding elephants, diaper-wearing dragons, butterflies, and even a UFO. The boy remains oblivious of the shenanigans occurring around him. Only the threat of a kiss, every young boy's worst nightmare, snaps him out of his reverie. Of course, it was "just a story," the chaos in the library symbolic of the vivid images a book can conjure in the imagination. Mack's illustrations are bright and colorful. He is able to pack the page with personality and movement without overwhelming the flow of the book. The boy reads independently, which may inspire younger readers to do the same. On the back flap is an illustration of a young Black girl, who also appears at the end of the story to carry on the conceit. VERDICT The thrill of reading has been well documented, and this book doesn't unfurl new territory; recommended for larger collections where the Mack's work is already popular.--Chance Lee Joyner, Haverhill P.L., MA

Copyright 2021 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

Extolling literature's transportive properties, this picture book follows a child who discovers a magical purple tome at the library. . . . A gently humorous reading adventure.—Publishers Weekly

The deadpan text is a foil for the rowdy artwork, cheery scenes littered with clues for alert viewers: a tree sprouting out of the floor, a lion paw, book covers themed with the coming comical attacks, and a library lady who carries on unflappably throughout the mayhem. —Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

The imaginative power of a story, brought to life. —Kirkus Reviews
Jeff Mack

Jeff Mack is a children's book author whose books include the Hippo and Rabbit series, Frog and Fly in Six Slurpy Stories, the Clueless McGee books, and Art Is Everywhere: A Book About Andy Warhol. He lives in Western Massachusetts where he continues to write and illustrate books, paint murals, and visit schools and libraries to talk about his work.

Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Neal Porter Books
Publication date
September 20, 2020
BISAC categories
JUV019000 - Juvenile Fiction | Humorous Stories
JUV047000 - Juvenile Fiction | Books & Libraries
JUV037000 - Juvenile Fiction | Fantasy & Magic
Library of Congress categories
Picture books
Adventure and adventurers
Adventure stories
Books and reading
Imagination in children
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, 09/01/20

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