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Jack and Zak

Everything was fine, until Zak drew THAT line. Can the brothers ever be friends again?

Jack and Zak PDF

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Originally we were going to try do a remake of the Miss Mary Mack hand-clapping song, because it has great rhythm and a fun hand-clap routine. But it is a nonsense poem and the words were too abstract and difficult for the intended readers. So I started looking for a story idea where I could use the same song and hand-clapping rhythm with easier words, that also worked as a story on its own.

I wrote the song first and then changed it many times to make it easier and a better story. I started with “My name is Jack, Jack, Jack.” and then thought, “Who is Jack, and what happens to him?”

The kids in our neighbourhood (my son’s friends) were fighting a lot at the time, and I could often hear them, and I was thinking how kids have big fights with their brothers and sisters, but still love and care for each other.

When I was growing up I had a lot of neighbourhood friends with brothers. There were three brothers next door on the left, two on the right,  two across the road, and four on the corner. Many of them had to share bedrooms with a brother. The brothers fought a lot. Our neighbourhood soccer games often contained at least one brawl. But they also stuck up for each other and took care of each other.

So then I thought, maybe Jack has a brother and they fight a lot. He needs a name. It has to rhyme. What rhymes with Jack? Not many names in English do – Mac? Zak? I chose Zak. The name sounds naughty to me. So Zak became the naughty brother who fights with Jack. The story grew from there.

 I had an image of the two brothers who share a room and have a big fight, and then become friends again at the end. Because I had to make the end of each line rhyme, there were only a few words that would fit the rhyme, which helped to suggest where the story went.

The illustrator, Mei Matsuoka did such a wonderful job of the art, and it really brought the story to life.

I loved writing this book and I love the way it goes in a full circle. I think it is very truthful about brothers.

(No giant robot cats were harmed in the making of this book.)