4 out of 5 stars
Jack Janson & the Storm Caller is an endearing story about growing up, unlikely friendships, and the journey to find one's true home. In it, author Andrew Marsh introduces readers to main character Jack Janson. He's an adventurous 14-year-old who handles difficulties at home with grace and maturity despite his young years. He goes to spend a few weeks with his grandma, Jean, at her cottage in Dover, England. There, he meets Winfred Storm Caller, a giant larger than life, who is searching for a way back home after many years living in a seaside cave. Through hard work, Jack, his gran, and friend/love interest Sarah-Jane (SJ) are able to achieve the seemingly impossible while giving Winfred a special gift.
Marsh's style, setting, and likable characters makes this a quick read. However, it also allows readers to explore tougher subjects, such as puberty, bullying, marital separation, and medical struggles. The conflict within is mostly internal, as Jack grapples with life as a young adult and learns the ways of his gran's secret trade.
Marsh weaves the characters together well, providing all with unique quirks and mannerisms that make them beloved characters. Winfred Storm Caller, who Jack befriends, is a giant also dealing with his own issues. Marsh fashions him into a foreigner largely through the use of language. It's clear that Winfred is no master of English; instead, he speaks a more simplistic version that Jack, Jean, and Sarah-Jane can (almost too easily, sometimes) interpret (I admit I had difficulty always knowing what was being said). This stinting of English, while an adjustment, endears Winfred to the reader even more and stresses the importance of making all feel welcome no matter where they come from or how they speak.
Overall, I enjoyed this middle grade/YA adventure and give it 4 out of 5 stars. The seaside setting of towering cliffs and hidden coves took me back to my time living in the United Kingdom. There I had the joy of visiting many seaside places, including the Giant's Causeway near Belfast, Northern Ireland. I think Jack Janson & the Storm Caller is a unique addition to the middle grade/YA genre. While simplistically written and told, it is also a coming-of-age story that will resonate with kids going through some of life's most trying times.