The Janitor's Boy

by Andrew Clements

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Who are the main characters of The Janitor’s Boy?

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The main character in The Janitor’s Boy is the title character, Jack Rankin. The other main characters are his father, John Rankin; his mother, Helen Rankin; the school principal, Mr. Ackerby; and another student, Eddie.

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The protagonist of Andrew Clements’s novel is the janitor’s boy of the title, Jack Rankin. The other main characters are Jack’s father and mother, John and Helen Rankin. Also playing important roles are the school principal, Mr. Ackerby, and Eddie, a neglected boy who finds shelter in the school.

In this coming-of-age story, Jack Rankin learns to appreciate his family, especially his father, and to reevaluate his own privilege. As the novel begins, Jack is an immature boy who is ashamed that his father is the janitor of the school he attends. Jack views this as a menial position. The changes Jack undergoes are propelled by his punishment for vandalizing school property as well as the stories his father tells and his experiences with a mistreated schoolmate.

John Rankin is Jack’s father. He is kind and patient with his son. After Jack misbehaves, explains how his own youthful indiscretions and his military service contributed to his becoming a janitor. After wrecking a car owned by his father, who owned a car dealership, John served in the army. John also helps Eddie, a neglected child, by allowing him to live temporarily in the school.

Helen Rankin is Jack’s mother. Because the couple has known each other since high school, she knows the relevant facts about John’s past. She serves as the intermediary to encourage an open conversation between father and son.

Mr. Ackerby is the principal of the school where Jack is a student and John works. Initially, he is unaware that Jack is John’s son. After Jack sticks copious amounts of gum to a desk, Ackerby punishes him by making him scrape gum.

Eddie is another student in Jack’s school. To avoid an abusive situation at home, he has taken refuge in the school. John and the local firefighters have helped Eddie use a makeshift apartment in the steam tunnel. Eddie’s situation and John’s role in helping him contribute to Jack’s learning to value his parents, home life, and future opportunities.

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Who are the main characters of The Janitor's Boy?

Let's talk about the main characters in Andrew Clements's novel The Janitor's Boy. The story's protagonist is Jack Rankin, a fifth grader who is the son of the school janitor, John Rankin, who is another main character. Jack gets teased a lot at school because he is the janitor's son, and one day, he gets so fed up and angry that he sticks gum all over the bottom of a desk. Jack wants to get revenge on his father for being the janitor (and indirectly setting Jack up to be teased).

Jack gets caught by the principal, Mr. Ackerby, who punishes him by making him stay after school for the next three weeks to clean gum off of desks. Jack must work with his father at this task, and he is afraid that his parents will punish him even more, but they do not. His mom, Helen, reflects on how John was once a young man with a great deal of potential until he joined the army and left town. Helen doesn't want to talk to her son about John's decisions, knowing that her husband must do that for himself. Helen and John both realize that Jack is upset because John is the school janitor.

Jack continues his punishment, and he gets the opportunity to explore the school building and spend time with his father. One day, John talks to Jack about his own father, Phil Rankin, who was a car salesman. John resented working at his father's dealership and crashed one of the cars. His father told him that he would have to work to pay off the debt, and John got angry, insulted his father, and joined the army. Later, though, John learned that his father often gave cars away to people who were poor, and he came to realize that Phil truly wanted his son to learn about hard work and generosity.

As Jack continues to explore the school, he goes down into the steam tunnel, and he is surprised to find a teenager named Eddie living down there in a little apartment to escape his violent father. Eddie explains that he is not the first one to use the hideout and that "John the janitor" set it up for people who need such a refuge. When Jack talks to John about the hideout, he learns about his father's war experiences and their aftermath and how the previous school janitor saved John's life by giving him work. John now pays back that kindness by helping others in tough situations. Jack ends the story being proud that his father is a janitor.

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