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Black Jack [School & Library Binding]

Leon Garfield
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

September 2000 0613302796 978-0613302791
A swarthy villain, nearly seven foot tall and presumed hanged, seems to wake from the dead in the presence of young Bartholomew Dorking. Having outwitted the noose, Black Jack enlists the unwilling boy to be his companion. Together they weave their way through the seamiest parts of old London, a traveling circus, and a private madhouse where forgotten lunatics are chained in empty rooms, and from which Bartholomew rescues Belle, a girl who may not be mad at all. Culminating in a ground-shaking climax, this strange and rich novel, whose 1979 film adaptation was shown at the Cannes International Film Festival, will enrapture readers young and old.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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"Garfield remains a talent to be remembered and a master to be emulated." -- Gregory Maguire

"Leon Garfield is unmatched for sheer, exciting storytelling." -- Lloyd Alexander

"Leon Garfield's name belongs on everybody's shortlist of truly great writers for readers of all ages." -- Michael Cart

"There has never been a writer to equal Garfield for ebullient...and witty evocation of the past..." -- Jill Paton Walsh --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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8 line drawings --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars The Most Beautiful Feeling in The World June 19 2003
Format:Paperback
My sister, the unstoppable Codemaster Talon, gave this book to read as part of our literary exchange program (she gives me books to read, and I give her books to read). When I first glanced at this book, I thought it would be an easy read (it's just over 200 pages). Then, when I started reading it, I found myself stumbling over some of the old-fashioned English phrases. I asked her when it was written. "The 70s." she said. "The 1970s?" I asked? "No, the 1870s", she joked. I honestly wasn't sure which one was the real date when until she told me. Yes, this book is indeed authentic in it's language. But for me it was hard. My sister told me to stick with it. Boy am I glad I did.
The story starts out with the giant Black Jack being executed, and then procedes to tell the story of a poor good-natured youngster who finds himself in this terrifying scoundral's strange company. The strange thing is that for some reason, this terrible man finds that he likes the young lad, and won't let him go.
When the boy finds himself suddenly and strangely abandoned by the giant after starting (and ending) his search for an escaped lunatic young girl, he folows the road till he finds (and joins) a traveling carnival. The that's where our story begins.
As Black Jack struggles with his fear of lunatics (can you believe it?) and growing admiration for his young friend, Tolly (the young fellow) gains maturity and learns about life as he helps the poor lunatic (her name's Belle) regain her sanity. It's really engaging, because all the characters are so very HUMAN, and as Tolly continually tries to help the girl while at the same time keeping her from getting to close (she loves him you know) he starts to find that he cares for her too.
Read more ›
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5.0 out of 5 stars Definitive Leon Garfield June 17 2002
Format:Hardcover
The wonderful Leon Garfield spent the 1970's writing wildly inventive litaterature for children, and "Black Jack" is his masterpiece. Funny, frightening, and ultimately a deeply touching love story, this terrific little novel is perfect for young adults or intelligent pre-teens.
The plot, such as it can be described, concerns a young boy named Tolly who inadvertently revives a notorious murderer who has just been hanged in the village gallows. The criminal, a fearsome giant nick-named Black Jack, promptly coerces Tolly into a life of crime, very much against the will of the decently noble young man.
Thereafter the novel builds steam as Jack and Tolly meet up with an escaped asylum inmate, join a carinval troupe, encounter various eccentrics and villians and finally witness the end of the world (well, sort off). The final thunder-bolt of an ending is almost unbearingly suspenseful and leaves the reader breathless.
As always, the fun of Garfield's writing is his ability to stack surprise after surprise without loosing credibilty. Despite the crazy goings-on , Garfield always makes his characters seem like real people and their development over the course of the book is complex and moving. If you enjoy intriguing stories with superb dialogue and wild plot twists, don't hesitate to buy "Black Jack". If you like this novel I also recommend Garfield's "The Strange Affair of Adelaide Harris" (which introduces one of his finest literary creations, best friends Bostock and Harris) and "John Diamond".
Every serious reader (and especially writers!) owe it to themselves to discover the genius of Leon Garfield, and "Black Jack" is a great place to start.
Was this review helpful to you?
5.0 out of 5 stars Dickens Lite? Feb. 7 2004
Format:Paperback
There's something in this book--in its characters, its settings, its situations--that is quite reminiscent of the work of Charles Dickens. But it's a lot shorter and simpler than the average Dickens novel. So I could recommend this book to anyone who likes Dickens, and even more so, to anyone who would like Dickens if only he weren't so long-winded. Or just to anyone who enjoys a rousing, well-written, action-packed novel with colorful characters.
Oh, and even though this book is marketed for younger readers, I see no reason why adults could not thoroughly enjoy it as well.
Was this review helpful to you?
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best adventure stories ever Jan. 23 2003
Format:Hardcover
Leon Garfield is one of the best writers for older children ever; no, make that for anyone! His gorgeous language, fabulous, gripping plots, vivid characters and Shakespearean understanding of humanity put him in the very top class of that golden age of children's books of the 60s and 70's--and some of the best of today's golden age, such as Philip Pullman, cite him as an importantinfluence. Back Jack is one of his best books, a wild, terrifying, exciting, romantic and mysterious adventure story that left me reeling as a kid, and still thrills me to bits! Don't miss it!
Was this review helpful to you?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  7 reviews
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Definitive Leon Garfield June 17 2002
By CodeMaster Talon - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The wonderful Leon Garfield spent the 1970's writing wildly inventive litaterature for children, and "Black Jack" is his masterpiece. Funny, frightening, and ultimately a deeply touching love story, this terrific little novel is perfect for young adults or intelligent pre-teens.
The plot, such as it can be described, concerns a young boy named Tolly who inadvertently revives a notorious murderer who has just been hanged in the village gallows. The criminal, a fearsome giant nick-named Black Jack, promptly coerces Tolly into a life of crime, very much against the will of the decently noble young man.
Thereafter the novel builds steam as Jack and Tolly meet up with an escaped asylum inmate, join a carinval troupe, encounter various eccentrics and villians and finally witness the end of the world (well, sort off). The final thunder-bolt of an ending is almost unbearingly suspenseful and leaves the reader breathless.
As always, the fun of Garfield's writing is his ability to stack surprise after surprise without loosing credibilty. Despite the crazy goings-on , Garfield always makes his characters seem like real people and their development over the course of the book is complex and moving. If you enjoy intriguing stories with superb dialogue and wild plot twists, don't hesitate to buy "Black Jack". If you like this novel I also recommend Garfield's "The Strange Affair of Adelaide Harris" (which introduces one of his finest literary creations, best friends Bostock and Harris) and "John Diamond".
Every serious reader (and especially writers!) owe it to themselves to discover the genius of Leon Garfield, and "Black Jack" is a great place to start.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Most Beautiful Feeling in The World June 19 2003
By Strategos - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
My sister, the unstoppable Codemaster Talon, gave this book to read as part of our literary exchange program (she gives me books to read, and I give her books to read). When I first glanced at this book, I thought it would be an easy read (it's just over 200 pages). Then, when I started reading it, I found myself stumbling over some of the old-fashioned English phrases. I asked her when it was written. "The 70s." she said. "The 1970s?" I asked? "No, the 1870s", she joked. I honestly wasn't sure which one was the real date when until she told me. Yes, this book is indeed authentic in it's language. But for me it was hard. My sister told me to stick with it. Boy am I glad I did.
The story starts out with the giant Black Jack being executed, and then procedes to tell the story of a poor good-natured youngster who finds himself in this terrifying scoundral's strange company. The strange thing is that for some reason, this terrible man finds that he likes the young lad, and won't let him go.
When the boy finds himself suddenly and strangely abandoned by the giant after starting (and ending) his search for an escaped lunatic young girl, he folows the road till he finds (and joins) a traveling carnival. The that's where our story begins.
As Black Jack struggles with his fear of lunatics (can you believe it?) and growing admiration for his young friend, Tolly (the young fellow) gains maturity and learns about life as he helps the poor lunatic (her name's Belle) regain her sanity. It's really engaging, because all the characters are so very HUMAN, and as Tolly continually tries to help the girl while at the same time keeping her from getting to close (she loves him you know) he starts to find that he cares for her too.
When Belle becomes convinced that she really is insane and has herself commited, and Tolly can't get the people imprisoning her to let him see her (despite his growing love for her), and Black Jack won't let anything get in the way of his friend's happiness... Well, let's just say it makes for one of the greatest climaxes I've ever seen in a book (especially when you consider the world is ending at the same time).
What really addicted me to this book was one thing. Love. When I read the passages about how Tolly and Belle found their feelings for each other grow, it gave me a simply wonderful feeling. The author of this book has managed to perfectly describe the feeling of being in love. I haven't felt this way while reading a book in a long time. This feeling the book gave me grew stronger and stronger as it progressed, but the very, very end made it shoot to the sky. Because what Belle kept describing in her wild rants of insanity turned out not to be mere dreams after all, but visions of a future more wonderful than she could have imagined.
If anything I have said connected with you in any way, READ THIS BOOK.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars High villainy, true love, and earthquake pills May 22 2005
By E. R. Bird - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Leon Garfield's one of those authors that, once discovered, feel like personal triumphs. When I read a Leon Garfield book, I suddenly have the impression that I've done something noble and great for the cause of humanity. He feels like my own personal children's author. The kind that I discovered all on my own and that, as one of the best kept secrets in kiddie lit, I don't necessarily want anyone else to know about. Then I come to my senses, sigh, and write a review like this one. Ever since I discovered his brilliant Dickensian, "Smith", I've been meaning to work my way through the Garfield oeuvre. "Black Jack" was second on my reading list and, now that I've read it through, it has become my favorite book by this author. If you've a child that's been enraptured by books like, "A Series of Unfortunate Events" or even, "The Wolves of Willoughby Chase", then you'd be committing a serious crime to omit from your reading list this most enjoyable of high Victorian adventures.

When a set of unlikely circumstances end with young Bartholomew Dorking guarding the coffin of the recently hanged villain Black Jack, the boy is less than delighted. An apprentice to a draper, Tolly has always led an upstanding pious life. Next thing he knows, however, the recently hanged Black Jack (the kind of man described here as, "a mighty fellow, and rough... as if the Almighty had sketched him out (and left the Devil to fill him in) before He'd settled on something of a quieter, more genteel size") is not as dead as he first appeared. In fact, he is very much alive. Taking Tolly with him wherever he goes, the boy finds himself the unwitting accomplice to this most dark-hearted of villains. In the course of their adventures they meet madwomen, frauds, fortune tellers, and sailors. And while Tolly finds true love in the most unlikely of places, Black Jack learns how to use his enormous strength for something other than villainy.

The book is a highly satisfying read. Part of this is due to the characters Garfield's conjured up. Tolly is fourteen and your typical heroic orphan. The kind of lad that Oliver Twist could've grown up to be (if Oliver was a little less saintly and little more human). His eventual lady love, one Miss Belle Carter, begins the book as mad but eventually is seen to be just a gal who suffered a severe shock in her youth and has needed to recover from it ever since. But the true hero of this tale is the title character. Black Jack's one in a million. He's so real that you can practically feel his villainy emanating off the pages that describe him. At the same time, there are chinks in his personality that allow you to understand why Tolly feels he must earn Jack's respect, even as he hates and fears him. Jack has his weaknesses as well. He fears madness above all things and he's often rather disconcerted when he observes Tolly doing the right thing in the face of what's easy. By the end of the book you'll find yourself cheering Jack and Tolly on and wishing that Mr. Leon Garfield had had the inclination to make several sequels of their adventures to accompany this marvelous tale.

So there you have it. A children's book for everyone to enjoy. You like descriptions? Then take a gander at passages like: "(She was) a happy, greasy, jingly lady whose skin was always aglitter with fine brass dust so that she had the air of being a worn but once costly Christmas present". You like a riveting story? By the second half of this book you'll be disinclined to set it down for even half a breath. You can't read a book unless the characters are likable? Even Tolly is a great guy to root for, and HE'S the saintly hero! Some people pooh-pooh Garfield as a lesser Dickens. I prefer to think of him as the logical step kids need between their everyday literature and real Dickens. If you want your child to pick up "Nicholas Nickleby" for fun, don't immediately ungulf them in that text first. Start them out slowly with a little Leon Garfield. With any luck, they'll be howling for more things along that vein. But don't relegate Garfield simply to the ranks of second-rate Dickens. He's an artist in his own right and his books are well worth discovering. You'll love it. I promise.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best adventure stories ever Jan. 23 2003
By Sophie Masson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Leon Garfield is one of the best writers for older children ever; no, make that for anyone! His gorgeous language, fabulous, gripping plots, vivid characters and Shakespearean understanding of humanity put him in the very top class of that golden age of children's books of the 60s and 70's--and some of the best of today's golden age, such as Philip Pullman, cite him as an importantinfluence. Back Jack is one of his best books, a wild, terrifying, exciting, romantic and mysterious adventure story that left me reeling as a kid, and still thrills me to bits! Don't miss it!
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dickens Lite? Feb. 7 2004
By Steve Stowers - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
There's something in this book--in its characters, its settings, its situations--that is quite reminiscent of the work of Charles Dickens. But it's a lot shorter and simpler than the average Dickens novel. So I could recommend this book to anyone who likes Dickens, and even more so, to anyone who would like Dickens if only he weren't so long-winded. Or just to anyone who enjoys a rousing, well-written, action-packed novel with colorful characters.
Oh, and even though this book is marketed for younger readers, I see no reason why adults could not thoroughly enjoy it as well.
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