Thursday, May 14, 2015

A Bean, A Stalk, and A Boy Named Jack by William Joyce

Jack and the Beanstalk is an old, familiar English fairy tale, and much like a number of old fairy tales, it is rather terrifying and gruesome. The giant wants to grind Jack's bones to make bread or the giant gets beheaded. So, it can be a trying task attempting to tell this story to a young child without frightening him or her. Thus, fractured fairy tales offer a gentler gateway before entering the seedier original stories, and William Joyce's take on Jack and the Beanstalk is adorable.

In A Bean, A Stalk, and A Boy Named Jack, the beloved author introduces us to Jack who is a smallish, ordinary boy. We also meet a smallish bean, who is not really any different from the other beans. Yet, when a drought in the kingdom leaves the king with a stinky toe, a magician steps in and helps make things happen. Jack plants the newly magical beans, ascends the gigantic stalk, and discovers a smallish giant has sucked up all the water in a large bubble bath. Jack assists the giant, Don, in washing his stinky toe (because it's a common ailment) before draining the tub and bringing water back to the kingdom. And what fairy tale would be complete with out a romance? Wouldn't you know it, Jack meets Jill and they head up a hill to fetch some water.

A lovely, pleasant story with a touch of humor for good measure. The new take on an old story not only teaches the lessons of kindness and sharing, but also sends a modern day message about being ecologically savvy. William Joyce's picture book is vibrant as ever, and as an author he rarely disappoints, so it's worth checking out some of his other titles such as The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore or the classic, George Shrinks. Mr. Joyce is keenly adept at making words dance across the page and utilizing literary devices that are witty and will make adults and kids alike giggle.

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