K. B. Jackson’s The Sasquatch of Hawthorne Elementary is a wonderful adventure novel perfect for middle grade readers, but it will also appeal to older readers looking for a delightful distraction. The cover design and title page artwork (which echoes at the start of each chapter) draws the reader in, but it is the main narrative that engages and keeps the reader invested.
The Sasquatch of Hawthorne Elementary is narrated by Jake Nelson, a young boy who—with his mother—has recently relocated from Florida to Washington State. Nervous that his introduction to a new elementary school will not go well, Jake quickly finds two friends with similar interests. Jasmine had just recently encountered a scary monster in the dense woods around the school property and when she learns Jake is an expert on Bigfoot, she hires him to investigate.
Ok, so “expert” might be a bit of a stretch. The “monster” was more like a bad feeling associated with some noise and movement deep in the foliage, and “hires” is most definitely the wrong word since Jasmine quickly makes herself the co-president of Jake’s Bigfoot hunting club. Fortunately, their mutual friend Lanny also joins the group (as the executive assistant, LOL) and helps to keep them on mission.
Jackson wisely brings some diversity to this core trio and as this group grows in future books, that trend is likely to continue. Part of the joy of the book is watching how these different personalities manage to work through their differences. In particular, having Jasmine’s family be of a different economic class than the boy’s is an inspired choice that can certainly be mined for conflict down the road.
While The Sasquatch of Hawthorne Elementary is most definitely escapist fun, Jackson doesn’t miss any opportunity to add some undercover learning into the mix. Jake likes to use big words that sometimes confuse his friends, which helps to expand the vocabulary of the younger readers. There are several moments where science and geography are discussed in the context of the Bigfoot hunt, which will also teach kids new facts they will no doubt share with their parents and friends. At one point, a brief debate about Disney’s The Little Mermaid and Aladdin has enough heft to inspire a very interesting dinnertime discussion in the real world.
Jake’s hunt for Bigfoot is largely inspired by two factors that are relatable to all readers. One is a desire to bond with his grandfather, who once had an unexplainable encounter, and the other is the longing to know more about his absent father. Jackson follows through and makes both of these threads emotionally fulfilling in extremely realistic ways.
All of this makes The Sasquatch of Hawthorne Elementary sound like heavy reading, but in reality there is so much humor and fun within the pages that most readers will never consciously notice these elements. Jackson has crafted a narrative that critically examines society from a child’s perspective without losing the joy and frivolity necessary to capture the young mind.
Anyone who reads The Sasquatch of Hawthorne Elementary will long to follow the characters as they head up to Harriman Lake—a hotbed of Bigfoot activity and the location of a buried treasure. Meanwhile, the true treasure is this new charming middle-grade series capturing the imagination of young readers everywhere. K. B. Jackson’s The Sasquatch of Hawthorne Elementary is available now, with the sequel to quickly follow.