Official disclaimer: "I received a copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review."
Jack vs. the Tornado by Amanda Cleary Eastep is the first in the Tree Street Kids series. It's a simple story, quick to read and quite enjoyable. I read it in a couple hours one evening and found it good enough to keep my interest despite being intended for the preteen years. It's not overly predictable in the details (and that's saying a lot given that I've been reading for years and can often tell you how preteen fiction -- especially newer fiction -- will turn out after the first chapter).
The main character is well-written and easy to empathize with. Jack just turned 10 and has to move from the farm to the suburbs. He's homesick and just wants to go back to the best fort in the world: his hayloft. He has a plan, and of course his plan doesn't work out the way he had intended (or there would be no story). Instead, he gets pulled into the lives of his neighbours and ends up happier than he had thought he could be in the suburbs. I like that while everything doesn't go smoothly for Jack, all his issues are normal 10 year old problems and complications: homesickness, a younger sister who can be annoying, a disagreement with a friend, dealing with storms. Aside from it being tornado season (a normal thing for where he lives), there are no excessively dramatic incidents. The story reads like something that could happen in any suburb.
The supporting characters are a bit 1-dimensional just yet and gather to form the Tree Street Kids group with all the necessary characters: the bookworm, the one with the backpack full of everything, and the one who takes photos of everything. I am hoping that their backgrounds and characters get fleshed out in future books (this one was focused on Jack, of course).
The book is published by Moody Publishers and has a distinct Christian feel: the family prays together and attends church; there are some Scripture verses; Jack prays when he is afraid; and Jack tries to figure out God's plan in having him move. At no time do the Christian elements feel forced or like they've been inserted to make the book a Christian book; they are simply a reflection of who the characters are.
Overall, it was a good read and one that I will happily pass on to friends with preteen aged children.