In this first book in author Amanda Cleary Eastep’s Tree Street Kids series, set in the mid-1990s, Jack Finch receives “the worst present ever” for his 10th birthday. His family moves out of his grandparents’ farmhouse, leaving behind the best hayloft fort in the world and a pet chicken named Henrietta. They relocate to King’s Grove, a suburb of Chicago.
Now in his new home, which doesn’t feel like home at all, Jack realizes that the reason his family had to move was because his grandparents could no longer afford the farmhouse and outlying buildings. Jack sets out on a quest to save the farmhouse so he and his family can move back there by the end of the summer. He prays for God to help him. Jack goes door to door in his new neighborhood to find lawn-mowing jobs to earn some money to help his grandparents.
Though Jack has no intention of making friends or becoming attached to his elderly, needy neighbor, he is inexorably drawn into adventure, friendship, and acts of service as the discovery of a mysterious object and events beyond his control carry him along. When a tornado sweeps through Jack’s new neighborhood and his grandparents’ farm, he is filled with sadness and anger: “Why did everything feel upside down? Why can’t everything be the way it was?” Providentially, the fallout of the tornado provides Jack with a new quest, even as he accepts his new friends and neighborhood.
In this fast-paced, adventurous, and humorous novel for children ages 8-12, author Amanda Cleary Eastep effectively characterizes a young protagonist who is aware of God’s presence in his life, yet wonders why difficult things happen to him, as well as adults who are, refreshingly, nurturing and loving though flawed and imperfect. Young readers who meet Jack and the rest of the Tree Street Kids in Jack vs. the Tornado are sure to want to read more about their adventures in The Hunt for Fang and other upcoming books in the series. (Moody Publishers)