Welcome to Saturday Story Spotlight, my feature where I discuss books my husband and I are reading with our son, Daniel. These are books that he, we, or all of us particularly enjoy.
Jack and the Beanstalk by Nina Crews
Published by Christy Ottaviano Books, an imprint of Macmillan
When Jack finishes doing chores for his neighbor Mrs. M, she gives him nothing more than a handful of beans. He’s disappointed, yes, but he decides to plant them as she suggested. The next morning, he finds a large beanstalk outside his window, and decides to climb it.
You likely know the rest of the story, but Nina Crews has updated and condensed it somewhat from the original. Although there is a golden harp in the pictures, the only treasure of the giant’s explicitly mentioned, and the only one Jack steals, is the hen that lays the golden eggs. When the giant catches Jack in his kingdom in the clouds, he puts him straight to work cleaning dishes, instead of threatening to eat him. The biggest divergence, however, is what happens when Jack chops down the beanstalk: the giant and his wife fall from the sky, but instead of being killed, they appear from under the beanstalk as normal-sized people, and it turns out that the giant is actually Mrs. M’s brother.
My reaction every time Daniel and I finish Jack and the Beanstalk is to be angry at Mrs. M. She gave Jack the beans in order that he might manage to save her brother. At an earlier point in the book, the giant’s wife tells him to be careful with this boy, as he doesn’t know his own strength. This implies to me that Mrs. M has sent other boys up and bad things have happened to them. It is quite selfish and slightly evil of her to be sending young boys into the sky to save her brother at their own peril without even telling them what they will be doing. This isn’t really addressed in Jack and the Beanstalk, though, there is simply a happy reunion between brother and sister.
Before the part where the characters make me angry, though, I love this update of Jack and the Beanstalk. The illustrations are live action photographs, which helps it stand out from all of the other picture books we read, most of which are either pictures of individual things, not whole scenes, or they are not photographs at all. The editing is very well done, so that giant beanstalks and people 5 times normal size look as if they are actually all together, making it all look very realistic. I also appreciated that the people pictured were multi-cultural.
This is a fun story made special with its live action photograph illustrations. Plus, it keeps my two-year old engaged, which is the most important thing.
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