Jack’s Ward, Horatio Alger

Jack’s Ward, by Horatio Alger
(New York Book Company, 1909)
Hb., 164 pp
Ages 7+

I am behind in commenting on books we have read- we’re still reading but I have been short on time to write about them.

I purchased this book a few years ago when I found it for a cheap price (though it is falling apart!) because I had heard much about Alger’s novels about boys, adventure and pluck. It was, overall, disappointing, however.

The story does feature a hard-working boy (Jack), who protects his adopted sister. The values of frugality, honesty and diligence are affirmed. However, there were several weaknesses.
First, the story was fine but not all that compelling. It lacked the verve and adventure of other books we have read. We may be spoiled by C. S. Lewis, Allen French and Douglas Bond! Secondly, the language was poor. I understand books written in vernacular, but the slang used here did not add to the story but really detracted from it. Lastly, I was amazed and disappointed by the disrespect shown by Jack to his aunt in particular. Again, I am aware of good boys’ books which represent the main character doing various mischievous things, but the good books eventually make it clear that such things are not right. This story seems to condone a high level of disrespect and even cold heartedness from Jack to his aunt. The aunt is intended to be an unlikeable character which would lead the reader to affirm Jack’s disrespect; but, respect is due to elders whether or not it is deserved.

This is the only Alger book I have read so I cannot comment on them all. This one, however, could be skipped. There is some value in it, but there are plenty other good books to read.

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