Jack: The Early Years of
John F. Kennedy

"Jack Kennedy's life was a gift, but one that was wrapped with many strings."

Ages 10-14.
He would be a symbol of power, grace, and tragedy-but before he was JFK, he was sickly and scrappy, troubled and charming; he was a boy called Jack.

To Jack, it seemed as if his brother Joe, not quite two years older, would always triumph-in school, on the playing field, in his father's affections. Jack was the sloppy second son, the witty, disorganized dreamer who could never seem to stay well long enough to muster his talents-a risky failing in the success-driven Kennedy family. Young readers cannot help but be fascinated by this sympathetic portrait of a complex youth who, as he struggled with the pressures of father-son dynamics and the shadow of ill health, discovered within himself an intensity for living and a profoundly ironic humor.


From Publishers Weekly
Cooper offers an engaging overview of the mischievous and often sickly boy who grew up to become president. Readers may be surprised by how un-presidential Jack behaved in his youth. For though Jack demonstrated strong creative and intellectual leanings, he struggled with rules, punctuality and order-struggles which cost him many meals in his strict Irish Catholic family and which nearly led to expulsion at his prestigious boarding school, Choate. Joe Sr., the head of the close-knit Kennedy clan "wanted winners in the house, not losers," Cooper asserts, as she effectively establishes the man's ambitions for himself and his sons. She speculates that Jack exaggerated some of his impish traits because he could never measure up to his seemingly perfect elder brother, Joe Jr., while also highlighting Jack's charm through family stories and occasionally in his own words, such as his well argued "A Plea for a raise" in allowance, addressed to his father. The author also discusses Jack's myriad health problems, which began with life-threatening scarlet fever at age two and plagued him throughout his life. Primary sources and photographs help capture the high pressured and privileged Kennedy lifestyle and an effective afterword chronicles Jack's rapid ascent in politics.

From Children's Literature
This book is an excellent choice for readers who want to learn more about President John F. Kennedy. . . . Cooper writes with a clarity that allows the reader to observe Jack and to get to know him and feel his frustrations as he emerges from the travails of sibling rivalry. The many incidents described about Kennedy's life make him an accessible, engaging personality and hold the reader's attention. There are many beautiful photographs and the book is brimming with interesting quotes of Jack expressing his frustrations of always being the second son. Cooper presents the young president as rebellious and troubled by a long history of childhood illnesses. Her portrayal is a different but no less engaging image than the better known "Camelot" image of his more public face as president.

Cooper tracks the life of the late President Kennedy from birth through high school, highlighting factual events and family dynamics. Among the former are descriptions of Jack's sickly childhood, including a three-month hospitalization for scarlet fever at age two, and his early public schooling and attendance at secular boarding schools, where students of his Catholic faith were few. Teens might enjoy learning that although Jack's intelligence was evident, his overall academic performance was lackluster and his rooms were a mess. His family's values centered on unity, religious faith, and winning. Intellectual curiosity was also fostered; a bulletin board displayed discussion topics to be addressed at dinner. Of the nine Kennedy children, Jack was the second son. Cooper suggests that his parents' theory of child raising-concentrate on the eldest so that he will model for the rest-had a strong impact on Jack. Attention was showered on Joe, the firstborn, and by comparison, Jack appeared to have felt neglected and undervalued. The boys developed as polar opposites-Joe responsible and hardheaded, Jack elfin and witty. A psychologist who evaluated Jack as a teenager wrote, "He withdraws from the race [with Joe] in order to convince himself that he is not trying." Intelligent design and numerous fabulous, well-placed, and well-captioned black-and-white photographs enrich Cooper's clear prose. . . . serious readers of any age will appreciate the wealth of information assembled.

From School Library Journal
A unique, highly readable choice for biography collections.

From Kirkus Reviews
Like all good biographies, the subject is the lens through which readers learn about his times. Cooper covers much history here: the Irish potato famine, the arrival of the Fitzgerald and Kennedy families on filthy "coffin ships," the prejudice against Irish Catholics, the Roaring Twenties, and the Great Depression. This is dependable nonfiction writing. Clear prose, numerous photographs, thorough source notes, and a solid bibliography make this a fine biography for young readers and a worthwhile addition to biography collections.