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Jack the Castaway

Jack the Castaway
Ivica Stevanovic Illustrated by
Lisa Doan By (author)
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Lerner Publishing Group

Limited ***

7.5 X 5.3 in
152 pg

JUVENILE FICTION / Readers / Intermediate
JUVENILE FICTION / Family / General (see also headings under Social Themes)
JUVENILE FICTION / Humorous Stories


Independent Publisher Book Award — 2015 — Winner


Jack's parents have been chased out of Tokyo, gone broke in Greece, and hosted Nairobi's least successful safari. Next they’re taking Jack on a Caribbean vacation—whether Jack wants to go or not. The Berensons are about to start a snorkeling business. It's their latest get-rich-quick scheme. With these experienced world travelers at the helm, what could go wrong?

Jack's used to staying indoors and not taking chances. When his parents take him out on the water, he ends up shipwrecked. Now Jack has to survive on a tropical island…and avoid a whale shark that's swimming near the beach.


"Jack's parents have been all over the world in an effort to get rich quick, while leaving him with his aunt and uncle. Following the death of Jack's Aunt Julia, the boy must now live with his parents and participate in their latest scheme: snorkeling tours in the Caribbean. Unfortunately for Jack, they run out of fuel on an excursion together and, as the title suggests, Jack and his family find themselves shipwrecked. Will the Berensons escape unscathed? Will Jack actually befriend a whale shark named Tom? The story is a well-written debut novel and an introduction to a fun cast of characters and a series certain to be full of adventure. Pencil illustrations bring life to Jack and all of the craziness he and his family experience. This will likely entertain even the most reluctant of readers." —School Library JournalJournal

"Jack takes life seriously—sometimes too seriously. His parents don't take life seriously at all. The result is Lisa Doan's very fun and funny comedy of errors, Jack the Castaway. In this entertaining story, it's the parents who learn from the kid!" —Brent Hartinger, author of Geography ClubOther Print

"All Jack Berenson wants is to go to school like a normal sixth-grader and come home to parents who work regular, old 9-to-5 jobs, but life with Richard and Claire Berenson is anything but normal.

When the two whisk their son off to the 'undiscovered Caribbean' in hot pursuit of their next get-rich-quick scheme, Jack quickly finds himself stranded on a desert island with little more than a bird named Loco, a few bags of potato chips and a box of Spider-Man Band-Aids. Incredibly, there seems less reason to be concerned for Jack's welfare than for his flighty, accident-prone parents, who are safe on the mainland. Readers will be charmed by Jack, whose flair for checklists and self-preservation is both humorous and endearing. Middle-grade readers who tend to leave their socks on the floor will surely be intrigued by a kid whose first order of business upon being shipwrecked is to do laundry. While at first Jack's parents do seem alarmingly uninterested in their son's well-being, they gradually warm up to their role as parents. By book's end, the threesome even agree upon a set of family rules designed to save lives and still allow room for a bit of adventure.

Readers who are list makers should make sure this series opener is included." —Kirkus ReviewsJournal

"If you want to laugh until your sides hurt, rush out and find a copy of Jack the Castaway by Lisa Doan.

Eleven-year-old Jack just wants to attend school, do homework, and avoid poisonous frogs.

Unfortunately his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Berenson, have other ideas. Their get-rich-quick schemes have involved panning for gold in the Amazon, taking unsuspecting tourists on safari in Kenya, and exporting precious stones from India--all of them a disaster.

When they announce their newest scheme, which means moving to a Caribbean island, Jack has no choice but to go along.

Jack is reminded daily that the Berensons aren't like other parents. They encourage him to eat candy for breakfast, plan to educate him with their "home-schooling thingy," and don't worry in the least after Jack has disappeared for several hours in a foreign country.

When the Berensons launch their new scheme, a snorkeling business, Jack knows it will be another disaster. But he doesn't know it will be his disaster until he finds himself cast ashore on a deserted island circled by a whale shark. His only company is a parrot named Loco whose favorite phrase is, "Bad dog." Not exactly helpful when you're almost out of food and water.

Will the Berensons find Jack? Will they finally follow a checklist as Jack has been begging them to?

Fortunately, the hilarious Jack the Castaway is the first book in the Berenson Schemes series. I'm looking forward to more adventures and misadventures--assuming Jack and Loco get off that island. Ages 9 to 12." ―Margaret Nevinski, author of FloatingBlog

When I think of survival stories, the first two that come to mind are Hatchet by Gary Paulsen and Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell. Both are classics worth reading, but there’s a great big world of other terrific survivalist stories for middle grade readers. Here are just a few:

Jack the Castaway, by Lisa Doan and Ivica Stevanovic
Jack’s parents are semi-successful world travelers. No matter the adventure, something always goes horribly wrong, but they always manage to make it out alive. For their next grand trip, they’re taking Jack on a Caribbean adventure as part of their get-rich-quick plan to start a snorkeling business. As always, something goes wrong, but this time Jack finds himself shipwrecked on a remote island, and his parents nowhere to be seen. The first in an adventure series for younger readers, Jack the Castaway is just the right combination of adventure and humor.


"Launching the Berenson Schemes series, Doan's debut novel pits cautious Jack Berenson against his reckless parents with uproarious results. Jack stays with his aunt while his parents embark on doomed 'get-rich-quick schemes,' including panning for gold in the Amazon, 'which had not produced any gold but had produced intestinal parasites.' After Jack's aunt dies, he's forced to accompany them to the Caribbean to start a snorkeling business. The story's dry humor is seeded in Jack's ruminations about his parents ('They were like little kids who kept running into the road') and their cross-purpose dialogue (Jack complains that they would be 'horrible' homeschoolers who wouldn't even check his homework, and his father laughs, 'We'd never give you homework'). When Jack's parents abandon him in a ramshackle skiff while they snorkel, the boat runs out of gas, and Jack drifts to an uninhabited island. With only a cynical parrot for company, the outdoors-averse 11-year-old uses his wits to survive while awaiting rescue. Stevanovic's caricatured spot illustrations match up well with this funny and adventure-filled story of parent-child role reversal." —Publishers WeeklyJournal

"Many children's books feature young protagonists who are thrust into turmoil after being orphaned. In Doan's entertaining debut, Jack's misadventures begin once his absentee parents show up and whisk him off to the Caribbean. A sensible 11-year-old, Jack would much rather stay in Pennsylvania than risk his life on one of his parents' dangerous get-rich-quick schemes. Stuck on a deserted island with a rather irritating parrot, Jack learns survival skills as well as some more mundane coping skills, like not always automatically assuming the worst. Doan's swiftly paced narrative is well matched by Stevanovic's cartoony illustrations, the first of which showcases the skeletal frames of Jack's parents (victims of Amazon jungle intestinal parasites) as well as the deep distrust Jack has for his parents. By the end of the book, Jack and his folks have been reunited and have agreed on some important rules for one another—the bending of which should make for amusing continuations of the Berenson Schemes series." —BooklistJournal

Author Bio

Ivica Stevanovic has illustrated numerous picture books, as well as book covers and graphic novels. He lives in Veternik, Serbia, with his wife, who is also a children’s illustrator, and their daughter.

Lisa Doan received a master's degree in writing for children and young adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. As a professional vagabond, she has traveled extensively through Africa and Asia and lived on a Caribbean island for eight years. Her variety of professions have included Master Scuba Diving Instructor, New York City headhunter, Owner/Chef of a Chinese restaurant, television show Set Medic and Deputy Prothonotary of a county court. She wrote her first book during a Caribbean slow season while waiting for restaurant customers. She currently lives in Pennsylvania with a Great Dane who stares her down for biscuits.