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Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Jacob Two-Two Meets The Hooded Fang

Sometimes, it sucks to be the ‘baby of the family’.

It's especially frustrating when your age happens to be significantly younger than that of your loved ones.

In the case of this blogger, he happened to grow up in a family where his siblings were at least a decade older than he was.  On one hand, both of the were out of the house by the time I was eleven.  On the other hand, it was frustrating not to have someone close to you in age to hang around with.

It wasn't really until I started school that I realized that my family was a bit unique compared to other kids in my class.  I was in third grade when the realization that I was the only kid in the class who had a sister in her early twenties.  Everyone else in the class had siblings that were at the most, three years older or younger.  And you know, in some way, I sort of resented the fact that I didn't have a brother or a sister who was close to me in age.  Mind you, siblings who ARE close in age likely have more rivalries present (or so I have heard anyways), but I still wanted that experience to have a sibling who I could grow up alongside.  I know it sounds silly to admit it, but when I was a kid, I always resented my parents for spacing us all out the way they had.

I'll admit that I no longer feel this way now.  But, back then, it bothered me a bit.

You want to know what else bothered me?  Being the youngest.

I would have loved to have had a younger brother or a sister.  I know they say that being the youngest child can be a blessing, and yes, I'll readily admit that it does have its perks.  However, I think almost all of us who are youngest children have had some sort of fantasy of becoming an older sibling.  It gives us the chance to be a positive influence to someone younger than we are.  And the feeling that one gets in being someone that someone else looks up to must give them a nice, warm, fuzzy feeling.

Ah, who are we kidding here!  Let's just be up front right here, right now.  The only reason why some of us wanted a younger sibling was to make them do our every bid, favour, and whim imaginable!

(And yes, I see some of you snickering and nodding in agreement here,)

I'll admit it.  Sometimes I fell to the mercy of my two older sisters, and yes, sometimes I felt as though I was nothing more than their own personal errand boy.  If they wanted a soda, guess who got it for them?  If they wanted the newspaper, guess who got it for them?  If they wanted a snack that didn't involve cooking it...well, yeah, you get the idea.

Do I wish I had stood up for myself more?  Not really.  I know that neither of them were being malicious or cruel in their requests.  If they had, it would have not gone on, I will tell you that much.  At the same time, it did get sort of annoying after a while.  Of course, sometimes, I wished that I had a younger brother or sister who I could make do errands and fetch me sodas.  Of course, I wouldn't be a tyrant about it.  I just wanted to have the same experiences that my older siblings did.

It never came to be though.

So, how does that little story tie in with today's blog entry?  It's really very simple.  The subject of this blog, like myself, was the youngest child in the family.  Like myself, he had older siblings who treated him somewhat the same way that my older siblings acted towards me in my childhood.  In fact, I actually think that they may have treated him a lot worse than my siblings ever did with me.  Of course, it's all speculation at this point in time. 

Unlike myself, a simple errand that the title character is asked to do ends up becoming a whirlwind adventure, where the character learns a little bit about himself, and where the place he ends up is much worse than living in a home with four older siblings who act as if he's a non-entity.

And I can't think of a better way to kick off the first edition of the Wednesday Gift Shop Grab Bag section than with this beloved classic book.

Have you ever heard of a boy named Jacob Two-Two?  No?  Well, he just happens to be the star of a few novels written by Canadian author Mordecai Richler.  Jacob Two-Two was one of the many characters he had created.  The character is said to have been inspired by Richler's youngest son, Jacob Richler.

In third grade, my teacher, Mr. Porter, would often select books to read in class, and then after the books were read, we'd do classroom activities and independent studies based on the books he read in class.  To my knowledge, I had never known Mr. Porter selecting a terrible book.  I truly enjoyed every book that he had picked for us to study in class. 

One of the books was the 1975 novel, 'Jacob Two-Two Meets The Hooded Fang'.  And, I loved it!  I loved it so much that when the Scholastic Book Clubs offered the book for sale one year, I bought it for nostalgic purposes.

The book starred the title character, Jacob Two-Two.  He was two plus two plus two years old.  He had two parents, two older brothers (Daniel & Noah), and two older sisters (Emma & Marfa).

Oh, and the reason why he was called Jacob Two-Two?  He said everything twice!  He said everything twice!

Oh, sorry...had a Jacob Two-Two moment there.

So, anyway, Jacob Two-Two had a bit of a quandary.  Because he was the youngest one in the family, he wanted to be a contributing member of the household.  He tried so hard to be heard (in fact, one of the reasons why he started to repeat his sentences was due to the fact that his family often tuned him out the first time), but often it went to no avail.

His relationship with his parents is pleasant enough, but Jacob sometimes feels as if they baby him too much, not letting him do any of the things that his older siblings did, frustrating him a lot.  Believe me when I tell you that I shared Jacob's frustration for many, many years!

Then there's the relationship that he has with each of his siblings.  He liked Marfa well enough, but sometimes found her a bit vain and self-absorbed.  He always saw Daniel as the very definition of the word 'cool', but sometimes treated him as if he was a nuisance.

Then there were Emma and Noah.  Fraternal twins.  They watched wrestling on television, they both loved reading books, and they even had their own superhero identities.  Emma was the 'Intrepid Shapiro', Noah, 'Fearless O'Toole'.

Oh, and they were the ones who were nastiest to Jacob Two-Two.

One day, Jacob Two-Two decides that he wants more responsibility.  He wanted to prove to his parents, his sisters, and his brothers, that he was at the age where he could start doing things for himself.  He so desperately wanted to prove to his family that he was able to do grown-up things.  If he did, maybe they would start treating him more like an adult and less like a baby.

So, Jacob's father says, 'Okay, Jacob.  Go to the store and bring home two ripe, red tomatoes from the store'. 

And, Jacob happily heads down to the store to fetch the two tomatoes.

However, once he gets to the store, a misunderstanding by the store clerk leads Jacob into believing that he had threatened the clerk accidentally, and when the clerk approaches a police officer, Jacob mistakenly believes that the clerk is trying to arrest him.  So, Jacob charges out of the store and runs as fast as he can, but somehow ends up tripping and knocking himself out.

When he comes to, he finds himself in a courtroom.  He tries his best to defend himself to the court, but somehow, he is found guilty.  He is given the rather unusual prison sentence of two years, two months, two days, two hours, two minutes, and five seconds behind bars at a children's prison far, far away from civilization.

And let's talk about this prison.  This prison is a scary place for children.  It would be a scary place in general for anybody, but this prison was one where bad boys and girls were sent to do hard time with back-breaking labour.  The guards of the prison, Master Fish and Mistress Fowl, were bad enough.  The ringleader of the prison was the one who they called 'The Hooded Fang'.  The Hooded Fang was rumoured to be a long-lost wrestler (who surprisingly had the same name as one of the wrestlers that Noah and Emma watched on television), who reportedly hated children, and who was so scary that it was rumoured that people who had the misfortune of meeting him face to face didn't come back to tell the tale.

Jacob Two-Two was in very big trouble.  Or was he?

You see, there were a lot of mysteries that surrounded this mysterious prison.  For one, even though Jacob was lead to believe that he was in a dangerous and terrible place, he seemed to have a friend on the inside.  He would be given chocolate bars, gumdrops, and other tasty treats.  Seemed kind of odd that prisoners would have a neverending candy supply, didn't it?

On top of all that, Jacob seemed to have allies on the outside.  When they weren't putting an end to a crooked toy store owner selling dodgy toys to children, Fearless O'Toole and Intrepid Shapiro had one mission on their mind.  They planned to merge their 'Child Power' together to get Jacob Two-Two and the rest of the children free from the prison.  They went to every extreme too, even emblazoning their logo on the bellies of ten poor crocodiles in the moat surrounding the prison!

So the questions left to be answered are these?  Can O'Toole and Shapiro bust the prisoners out of the clink?  Will Jacob find out who his 'Sugar Daddy' is?  And just who is the Hooded Fang?

What, you expect ME to tell you?  You'll just have to read the book yourself!  I will warn you that the ending itself has several twists to it, but you won't be disappointed.  I promise you that.

Or, you could try to rent or download the two feature films that were made which were based on the book.  One of the feature films has Gary Busey in it, if you can believe it!

It is a great book though.  And after reading it, I will admit that I changed my stance about the youngest child stigma.  About how it's only a stigma if you let it get that way.

Now I'm okay with being the youngest child in the family.  And, I finally feel as if I do have a place where I can and will fit in.

And, hey, this year, my siblings will be 46 and 40, while I'll still be sitting pretty at 31!  If that's not the ultimate perk, I don't know what is!  :D

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