The Decomposition of Jack

The Decomposition of Jack
Age Range
8+
Release Date
October 11, 2022
ISBN
978-0063212268
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Middle school is always hard, but when you’re known as the Roadkill Kid, well, it’s even harder. Jack’s mom collects roadkill—it’s her job, and she’s very good at it. Ever since Jack’s mom and dad got divorced, Jack has stepped into the role of Mom’s co-scientist.

One day while tending to the roadkill garden, Jack believes he spots a cougar in the wilderness beyond his backyard. A cougar in Tennessee? They’re supposed to be extinct. So, when Jack has to choose an animal to research for his Earth Science class, he picks cougar.

As pressure mounts on Jack to complete his project and to be Mom’s business partner, the mystery of the cougar feels too big to solve. Jack knows what the decomposition of an animal—and a family—looks like, so can he figure out how to bring them back to life?

Editor review

1 review
Science is not for the weak stomached!
Overall rating
 
5.0
Plot
 
5.0
Characters
 
5.0
Writing Style
 
5.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
 
N/A
Jack's mother is a scientist who studies road kill. She collects it from the roads near their Tennessee home, keeps it in the yard, and keeps spreadsheets on its progress, which is used by other scientists for all manner of purposes. Jack's father has left, and since he also worked in this field, Jack's mother relies on him not only for picking up and transporting their specimens, but also for record keeping. It's not easy being "Jack Splat" or "Roadkill Jack" at school, although he doesn't really mind his mother's work, and hopes he can help her keep the grants she has gotten to fund his work. When his teacher assigns a project on a Tennessee animal, Jack picks the cougar, even though they are supposedly extinct in his state. There have been some sited, and Jack thinks there is one living in the woods near his house. Jack's friend Andre doesn't mind the family's work, either, and Zoe, who has amazing green eyes, doesn't seem to mind either. Zoe is very interested in ecology and the environment, and is very excited by Jack's mother's work when she does an online meeting with the class. Will Jack be able to prove that there are cougars in the area while he is working on the project so that he can report the sighting and hopefully get the state to recognize and protect the animal?

Be forewarned that there are a lot of descriptions of dead and decaying animals, and one pet dog who is killed on the road. It is not for readers who have delicate stomachs but isn't gratuituous. There is a reason for the dead animals, and a lot of science discussed in what happens to them.

This would be a great book for science teachers who want a read aloud with STEM connections, and it would definitely be great for biology units that study the life cycle of animals. There are plenty of really good descriptions of decomposition, and on the insect life involved with it.
Good Points
Tubb has channeled a personal passion for cougars into an intriguing book that incorporates a lot of science, research, and family dynamics as well. I'm always a fan of books that include school projects, since most middle grade readers can relate to those, and Jack, even though he is failing science because he is taking the research in another direction, really connects with the material. The fact that his father has left and is not good about keeping in touch with Jack will speak to many readers, but it was good to see that Jack's mother keeps up with what he is doing and cares about him. Andre and Zoe are good companions, and Jack's other classmates make fun of him in a realistic and not overly dramatic way. There are some things that middle school students will always manage to make the butt of jokes, and parents studying road kill would be on the top of that list. I'm impressed by the wide range of topics that Tubb has explored with her books, from the quirkiness of Austin, Texas in Luna Howls at the Moon to therapy dogs in Zeus, Dog of Chaos, to vaudeville in my favorite, Selling Hope.
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