My fairy tale makeovers review series has been lagging a bit of late, so I am happy to present you with a fun little makeover of Jack and the Beanstalk for the early years crowd. I gratefully received a copy A Bean, A Stalk and a Boy Named Jack by William Joyce and the alliteratively named Kenny Callicut, from the publisher, Simon and Schuster, and was immediately drawn to the gorgeous colours and sweeping vistas of the illustrations. There’s also an extremely underwhelmed Brahman bull that pops up here and there that had us all giggling from the get-go, so watch out for him!
When drought hits the land, all the King’s subjects must line up to do their bit – their bit specifically being producing tears in order to provide water to wash the King’s stinky pinky toe. After some slight interference from the King’s daughter and the Royal Wizard, a smallish boy and a smallish bean join forces to solve the problem of the stinky pinky, and return equilibrium to the kingdom. When Jack (the smallish boy) plants Bean (the smallish bean), an oversized stalk erupts and delivers the unlikely pair to the crux of the problem – a (smallish) giant kid having a giant bath! With a bit of friendly conversation and due consideration, the water problem is rectified and the King’s pinky becomes unstinky. Cue bathing! Cue rejoicing! Cue…another fairy tale?!
**For some odd reason – it could be something to do with the writing – but I imagined this whole tale beginning to end read in a Brooklyn-ish accent. It seemed to fit perfectly and really added to the experience for me, but you know, it’s just a suggestion. **
At 58 pages, A Bean, A Stalk and a Boy Named Jack, is a slightly longer than average picture book, but the engaging and colourful illustrations, many of them covering double page spreads, just suck you straight into the adventure. The tale is narrated in a fun, laid-back tone, and while there’s no rhyme, there are plenty of repeated phrases for the young’uns to join in with. The text is laid out in a combination of clear black type and colourful speech bubbles and this mixes things up and provides a bit of interest.
Jack is immediately likeable and Bean is possibly the cutest vegetable ever to grace the page and the remaining members of the ensemble cast just seem to want to solve the stinky pinky problem and return the status quo. There’s not a lot of wild adventure here – more of a meeting of like minds – but it’s definitely worth a look simply to appreciate the eye-catching art and gentle humour gracing the pages. I especially liked the cheeky twist at the end of the tale which leads into another fairy tale (Jack, of course, being a common name in fairy tale circles), but I won’t spoil it for you.
If you are looking for a fun, relaxed twist on the Fee-Fi-Fo-Fum that exchanges bone-grinding for hygienic bathing practices and water conservation, then this is the fairy tale makeover for you! I must admit, paging through it again has sucked me straight back into the beautiful illustrations, so I’m going to sign off now and spend a few more moments giving my eyeballs a visual treat. Don’t mind me.
*clears throat in preparation for Brooklynish accent*
A Bean, A Stalk and A Boy Named Jack was released on October 1st.
Until next time,