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Children's Fiction General

The Several Lives of Orphan Jack

by (author) Sarah Ellis

illustrated by Bruno St-Aubin

Groundwood Books Ltd
Initial publish date
Jul 2004
General, Humorous Stories, Orphans & Foster Homes
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Jul 2004
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Sep 2003
    List Price

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Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels

  • Age: 7 to 10
  • Grade: 2 to 5
  • Reading age: 7 to 10


Winner of the Mr. Christie's Book Award and the IODE Violet Downey Book Award

For young Jack, life is tough at the Opportunities School for Orphans. But Jack is good at staying out of trouble. He has skipped over trouble, danced around trouble, slid under trouble, melted away from trouble, talked his way out of trouble and slipped between two close troubles like a cat through a picket fence.

When Jack turns twelve, he is given the biggest opportunity of all, but suddenly his life is nothing but trouble. Still, he is a clever and resilient boy, and eventually he makes his way into the big world. Jack is rich in ideas, and soon he finds there is a place for an enterprising boy who has whims, concepts, plans, opinions, impressions, notions and fancies to spare.

In the tradition of Natalie Babbitt, Sarah Ellis brings her quirky sense of humor and imagination to bear in this witty, warm fable. Bruno St-Aubin's evocative black-and-white illustrations capture perfectly the dreadful Schoolmaster Bane, the crowlike accountant Mr. Ledger, Lou the skinny bun merchant, and Christabel, the miller's little daughter.

About the authors

Sarah Ellis is one of Canada's most-loved children's writers. A former librarian, she is a highly sought-after children's book reviewer, literary jury member and speaker who lectures internationally on Canadian children's books. She is the winner of the Governor General's Award (Pick-Up Sticks), the Mr. Christie's Award (Out of the Blue and The Several Lives of Orphan Jack) and the Sheila A. Egoff Award (The Baby Project, Back of Beyond and Odd Man Out). Further accolades for Odd Man Out include the prestigious TD Canadian Children's Literature Award, the Dorothy Canfield Fisher Award Master List, ALA Notable Book for Older Readers, Maine State Library Cream of the Crop List and OLA Best Bets - Top 10 Fiction for Children. Sarah Ellis has also won the Vicky Metcalf Award for a Body of Work. Sarah is on the faculty of Vermont College of Fine Arts. She lives in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Sarah Ellis' profile page


Bruno St-Aubin est un des piliers de la littérature jeunesse de chez nous. Aux Éditions Scholastic, Bruno a illustré Gabi la ballerine, écrit par Joan Betty Stuchner ainsi que des livres à succès mettant en vedette l'adorable Nicolas. Il a aussi publié, à titre d'auteur-illustrateur, Le panache du grand Georges, une belle histoire sur l'amitié montrant une foule d'oiseaux de chez nous.


BRUNO ST-AUBIN has illustrated over sixty children’s books, including nine in the Nicholas series, Sadie the Ballerina and George’s Antlers. His favourite activities when he is not illustrating include soccer, cross-country skiing, cycling, jogging and playing hockey. He lives in Quebec.


Bruno St-Aubin's profile page


  • Short-listed, Hackmatack Award
  • Commended, Cooperative Children's Book Center Choice
  • Long-listed, Sheila A. Egoff Children's Literature Prize
  • Short-listed, CLA Book of the Year for Children Award
  • Long-listed, Chocolate Lily Award
  • Winner, IODE Violet Downey Book Award
  • Commended, CCBC Our Choice (Starred Selection)
  • Winner, Mr. Christie's Book Award
  • Long-listed, Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Award
  • Short-listed, Governor General's Literary Awards: Text

Editorial Reviews

...there is real strength in Ellis's turns of phrase, use of imagery, and alliteration, and in showing readers the power of words and ideas to liberate the imagination.

School Library Journal

Told with the outsize zest of a tall tale, this vibrant, well-crafted novel starts strong and gets even better.

Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

Ellis has created a small gem here, with messages about following your heart tucked into the sentences, phrases, thoughts, and ideas that she seamlessly weaves together.


The playfulness of this picaresque short novel is utterly engaging. Words, words and more words, alliterative pairs of words like villains and volumes, scholars and scoundrels, toffee and tyrants, fall in torrents from the pages...

Globe and Mail

This special book is filled with often humorous and extraordinarily rich descriptive prose that is always a pleasure to read and full of surprises.

Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

[An] agile tale about wanderlust and the power of words. Ellis demonstrates through her creative - and often surprising - use of metaphor that an active imagination and rich vocabulary are a healthy combination.

Horn Book

Other titles by Sarah Ellis

Other titles by Bruno St-Aubin