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Spring Heeled Jack by Phillip Pullman

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It was the colourful cover of the book that caught my eye and also the title. I was intrigued to know who Spring-Heeled Jack was, so I turned the book over and it describes him as a sort of modern-day Superhero.  I have since found out that he was a notorious figure in Victorian times who was reputed to have attacked women, terrorised and harassed people at night and was able to leap high into the air.

Spring Heeled Jack - CoverSpring Heeled Jack - Title Page

Victims described him as having a terrifying appearance with "eyes that resembled red balls of fire" like the devil, but more importantly was his ability to make extraordinary leaps into the air to escape capture. He would leap across rooftops with astonishing agility blowing flames from his mouth so newspapers and the public at the time gave him the name "Spring-Heeled Jack".  Although he was never caught, he became one of the most popular characters of the period and eventually was portrayed as a hero of sorts which is probably why the renowned author, Sir Philip Pullman portrays him in this vein too.

The book is a quick-witted adventure story set in Victorian London and is about three siblings, Rose, Lily and Ned who live in an awful orphanage. Their plan is to escape to America by ship but they must first endure the dangerous, dark, London streets where criminals and villains are aplenty. As with any story there are twists and turns and obviously things don't quite go to plan.

They encounter Mack The Knife and his henchmen Quinlan, Peregrine, Auberon and Filthy...

Mack The Knife, Quinlan, Peregrine, Auberon and Filthy
Mack The Knife and his henchmen Quinlan, Peregrine, Auberon and Filthy


 plus Jim the sailor who's afraid of heights...

Jim the Sailor
Jim the Sailor

 

a Policeman called PC Tweedle who's also afraid of heights...

PC Tweedle
PC Tweedle


 a barmaid called Polly who knows Spring Heeled Jack!

Barmaid Polly
Barmaid Polly


the evil orphanage owners Mr Killjoy & Miss Gasket...

Orphanage Owners Mr Killjoy & Miss Gasket
Orphanage Owners Mr Killjoy & Miss Gasket

 

but more importantly Spring-Heeled Jack.

Spring-Heeled Jack
Spring-Heeled Jack

 

As you can see from the pictures above, the book is told in cartoon strip form, normal writing and even speech bubbles. Sir Philip Pullman provides the writing and David Mostyn the famous British cartoonist who worked on The Beano and The Dandy provides the cartoon strip.

Sir. Philip Pullman
Sir. Phillip Pullman (Wiki)


The drawings are brilliantly done and there is even a tiny cat, mouse and bug character that comment on the narrative from the margins.

Cat & Mouse
Cat & Mouse


Every chapter begins with a well-known phrase. As an example, Chapter Five begins – 'Un-derneath the Arches…' by Flanagan and Allen and then the chapter continues "Underneath the arches near Blackfriars…".

Chapter Five
Chapter Five


Children and adults alike will enjoy the humour throughout the book, for instance a man being held upside down with the words in the bubble also cleverly written upside down.

Upside Down
Upside Down

 

But even though it is a children's book, as an adult reader I found lots of chuckles and plenty of laughs.  The story is how you would expect it to unfold involving heroes, villains, orphans, and good versus evil, so did everyone live happily ever after? Do they make it to America or do they go back to the orphanage? Does Spring Heeled Jack save the day? That is the one thing you will have to find out for yourself!!

Gasp!
Gasp!

Contributed by Lisa

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(Published 11th Jun 2024)

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