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Book review: Sally Chabert's The Jacks Book
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Cover image of The Jacks Book

The Jacks Book is published by Workman Publishing and you can buy it from
You don't know jacks... until you've read The Jacks Book by Sally Chabert. Don't let its compactness fool you; The Jacks Book is a very readable 176 pages, suitable for kids of any age, filled with interesting history, rules, songs and even parlor tricks. It has delightful photos of children in the "throws" of the game. It even tells you how to make your own knucklebones (yes, knucklebones! don't ask...). I learned that the game goes by many different names and spans not only the globe but also the generations, dating all the way back to cavepeople. Close relatives of dice, they were made of stones as well as bones and were used for divination as well as fun and games. In one form or another, jacks is native to places as diverse as China, Haiti and the caves of the Ukraine. What I found especially interesting was the origin of the song "This Old Man" (you guessed it - onesies, twosies, all the way up to 10). This song was one of my favorite ditties at the age of five, but I never knew it had anything to do with jacks. There's lots more good reading where that came from.

Greeks playing jacks
Click for bigger picture
This is what we call "old school" (photo courtesy Workman Publishing, ©2000).
Caveat: The box of jacks is super-glued to the back cover of the book. If you find a way to separate them without ripping the book, please let me know! Of course I checked out the ball and jacks themselves to see how they measured up to what I remember playing with as a kid. At first glance the jacks looked like plastic but, happily, they clanked real good. Metal for sure. The ball looked more like a miniature Pinky--no red gloss like the old days--but the size and the bounce were the same, with maybe just a slightly different feel. It all comes in a very nice little drawstring bag.

Babs gives The Jacks Book two palms up.

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