Wicked Jack is meaner than a rattlesnake. One day, Saint Peter visits him in the Great Dismal Swamp, and Jack is nicer than usual. To reward him, Saint Peter grants him three wishes. True to his nature, Jack comes up with three mean things that will happen to anyone who comes his way. When the Devil pays a visit and is the victim of one of Jack’s wishes, the result is Jack’s being turned away at the gates of both Heaven and Hell. To this day, he’s still wandering around Dismal Swamp! Some say this folktale explains the origin of jack-o-lanterns. Author Wooldridge “dug around’ to find as many retellings of this Appalachian folktale as she could find. Her adaptation is based on three different versions.
Wicked Jack Multi-Media Presentation
In October 2010, Wooldridge and Wicked Jack illustrator Will Hillenbrand collaborated with Evelien Woolard, principal flutist with the Richmond Symphony Orchestra, to create a multi-media telling of the Halloween picture book, Wicked Jack. Performed for 400 5th-graders and featuring narration by Wooldridge, animation by Hillenbrand, and a score performed by a woodwind quintet, the program celebrated the union of visual art, literature and music. Students were invited to ask questions following the performance. The program, which was sponsored by the Richmond Symphony Orchestra and endowed by a grants from the Wayne County Foundation and Whitewater Valley REMC was presented again in October 2011.
“From the first page, readers are sure to realize that this is one of those great spooky-funny books where they’re laughing too hard to ever be really scared…..Surefire child appeal.” - School Library Journal (Starred Review)
“Hillenbrand’s imaginative mixed-media paintings (with smudges of coal) have thin, robust lines, angular figures, subtle colors, and a distinctive style. A folktale adaptation that works.” - Julie Corsaro, Booklist
“In Wooldridge’s adaptation of this well-known folktale, Wicked Jack practices meanness on strangers instead of treating them right. The story offers an explanation for the mysterious light you see dancing around in the Great Dismal Swamp of Virginia and North Carolina. Hillenbrand’s pencil and oil pastel illustrations greatly heighten the humor. - The Horn Book, Inc.
“Narrated with a breezy Southern twang, this pleasingly tart picture book by a first-time author tells of a man so mean that even the Devil is afraid of him. Hillenbrand captures the slapstick humor of this feisty read-aloud with great verve in his finely wrought illustrations, Intelligent and fun, with a moral thrown in for good measure.” – Publisher’s Weekly
Adapted by Connie Nordhielm Wooldridge
Illustrated by Will Hillenbrand
Published by Holiday House, 1995
Reading level: Ages 4 – 8