Super Jake and the King of Chaos

  • Review
By – September 29, 2019

Eleven-year-old Ethan is a tal­ent­ed and enthu­si­as­tic ama­teur magi­cian. He earns mon­ey and gains per­form­ing expe­ri­ence by con­duct­ing mag­ic shows for local children’s birth­day par­ties. After one such par­ty, Ethan’s moth­er arrives to pick him up accom­pa­nied by his dis­abled two-year-old broth­er, Jake. Jake has mul­ti­ple lim­i­ta­tions — he can’t talk, eat sol­id foods, and can nei­ther walk nor even sit up on his own. Ethan tries to deflect the children’s ques­tions about Jake, as their lack of under­stand­ing makes him uncom­fort­able. Ethan and his mid­dle-child broth­er, Fred­die, love, nur­ture and give Jake emo­tion­al sup­port. But Ethan has trou­ble han­dling the reac­tions of chil­dren who mock or taunt baby Jake due to inex­pe­ri­ence, imma­tu­ri­ty or unfa­mil­iar­i­ty with disabilities.

One child at school calls Jake a retard” and Ethan com­plete­ly los­es con­trol, hit­ting the boy and knock­ing him down, which, although briefly sat­is­fy­ing as he feels he is jus­ti­fied, leads to con­se­quences for Ethan. When he refus­es to apol­o­gize for hit­ting a school-mate, Ethan is faced with a pun­ish­ment he finds dif­fi­cult to accept. He los­es his hard-won per­mis­sion to meet a famous pro­fes­sion­al magi­cian, an idol of Ethan’s, from whom he is sure he can learn to per­fect his per­for­mance skill and who, he is cer­tain, will help him fur­ther his per­form­ing career. To add a fur­ther com­pli­ca­tion, Jake becomes ter­ri­bly ill and Ethan, Fred­die and their par­ents must learn to cope with the idea of this loss.

The read­er is drawn into a lov­ing, sup­port­ive fam­i­ly that pro­vides a nur­tur­ing and encom­pass­ing envi­ron­ment, despite cop­ing with dif­fi­cult issues. Ethan’s par­ents, grand­par­ents, teacher, fam­i­ly friends, and his own peers help him try to reach his goals. The read­er watch­es him learn to make chal­leng­ing and self­less choic­es, empathiz­ing with him as he grows, matures, learns respon­si­bil­i­ty, and fig­ures out how to process dis­ap­point­ment. The read­er also gets a glimpse into a com­plex fam­i­ly life and learns that it is pos­si­ble to lov­ing­ly care for a child with spe­cial needs while max­i­miz­ing the child’s strengths. Oth­er fam­i­lies with chal­leng­ing issues are seen as they work togeth­er as a unit to help their chil­dren and others.

The family’s Judaism plays a small but sig­nif­i­cant role as Ethan won­ders how God can allow a child like Jake to be.” The fam­i­ly observes Yom Kip­pur and the pow­er of prayer is a sym­bol of hope, the unknown, and the bare­ly pos­si­ble. The con­cept of hero­ism, dur­ing times of cri­sis but also dur­ing the con­duct of dai­ly life, is an ever-present theme.

Marge Kaplan is a retired Eng­lish as a Sec­ond Lan­guage teacher. She is a con­sul­tant for the children’s lit­er­a­ture group for the Roseville, MN school sys­tem and is a sto­ry­teller of Jew­ish tales.

Discussion Questions