Jackie is a memoir of a boy as he grows up and enjoys his childhood in pre-World War II Canada. Growing up in Niagara Falls is a pleasant, warm and enjoyable experience for Jackie who is the youngest of four children. His parents first arrived from Finland and have worked hard at creating a good life for their little family. Jackie has a great relationship with his older siblings: Eric, Armie and Liisa and each seem to hold a special level of adoration and respect in Jackie’s eyes. His parents also had another son, Timo, pass away as a child and his death holds great importance, but is not the main focus of the story; it instead acts as a backdrop that explains certain behaviors of Jackie’s parents.
Jackie is around six years old when the book begins and he is exuberant, curious, silly and adventurous. These traits will never leave him and the book is filled with neighborhood adventures, keen observations and sibling/family fun, lessons and interactions. Jackie is a great observer and notices qualities in both adults and children with striking detail. There is poignant social commentary provided through the eyes of a child as Jackie recalls certain events that held much significance to him and he is wise beyond his years in terms of his level of perception. He is quick to try new things, ready for adventures of all kinds and easily accepts love, and even scolding, from his family. His parents are regarded fondly throughout the book and all of the adults are spoken of with the reverence of a polite child. The book carries the reader through Jackie’s journey (or Jack as he later prefers to be called), until his family is ready for change and prepares to move to Toronto. Ready for this new undertaking, Jackie – now around ten years old – eagerly recalls memories of his earlier youth fondly and he will keep this nostalgia with him throughout his life.
Jackie is an uplifting read that will throw the reader back to a seemingly much simpler time. Jackie and his siblings and friends always seem to be scheming, playing outside and using their imaginations to the fullest potential. Even when the world is ready for war, in this corner of Niagara Falls, the focus on family, hope and growth never wavers. Jackie possesses a level of excitement and interest in his life that everyone should strive to acquire. The book is filled with hand drawn maps for the reader to follow along visually on his childhood adventures if they so choose and each chapter is neatly organized and concise. John Tammela’s writing is descriptive, thoughtful and engaging, which makes Jackie the child, seem very much alive. There are also questions for the reader at the end of the book which allows for further engagement and may help the reader consider certain perspectives that may have initially been overlooked.
Lauren Cannavino is a graduate student, freelance writer, wine lover, and avid reader. Random musings can be found over at www.goldiesays.com.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by John Tammela. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.