Book: It's Not Jack and the Beanstalk
Author: Josh Funk
Illustrator: Edwardian Taylor
Age Range: 4-8
It's Not Jack and the Beanstalk, written by Josh Funk and illustrated by Edwardian Taylor, is a meta retelling of the classic story, in which young Jack rebels against the narrator. He doesn't want to sell the cow, who he loves. He wants to eat the beans instead of throwing them out of the window. He questions the rhyming choices of the giant. And by the end of the book, well, let's just say that things don't turn out quite the way the narrator was expecting. But it's all good fun, and everyone is happy in the end.
It's Not Jack and the Beanstalk is told with a mix of dialog bubbles and narration. The narrator basically interacts directly with Jack, as well as with the giant. The narrator's words are shown in a gothic font, while the dialog bubbles use different colors, to help identify the respective speakers. This is quite clear visually, but does require the use of voices (or other attribution) when reading aloud. Here's a snippet, where I've added attributions:
"(Narrator:) When Jack arrived at the
top of the beanstalk, he
found himself in front of
a humongous house.
(Jack:) "I'll bet a giant lives there."
(Narrator:) Jack entered the house.
(Jack:) "Are you sure about that?"
(Narrator:) Yes! Jack definitely entered the house.
(Narrator:) Everything inside the house
was tremendously large.
(Jack:) "Spoiler alert:
A giant lives
here. Can I
(Narrator:) Suddenly, Jack heard a booming voice--
I SMELL THE
BLOOD OF AN
(Jack:) "Umm, that
rhyme. How about:
I can see the
You get the idea. As the book progresses, Jack and the giant become less and less cooperative, and the narrator becomes more and more cranky. This is shown using bold, oversize text, with plenty of exclamation marks. I especially enjoyed when Jack pointed out an inconsistency in the narrator's instructions. How can he use his ax to chop down the beanstalk when we're already established that Jack has no possessions. There are also notes of modern humor, like the fact that the giant is a vegan (and thus unlikely to eat Jack). There's even a cameo appearance from Cinderella.
Edwardian Taylor's digitally rendered illustrations feature a wide-eyed, expressive-faced Jack and a gold-toothed giant with an epic beard. The ending includes a delightful range of fairy tale characters, including an unhappy Pinocchio and a cheerful Goldilocks eating dinner with three three bears. A note on the back cover urges kids to look for the gingerbread man, the three blind mice and other fairy tale friends hidden throughout the book, suggesting good cause for a re-read.
It's Not Jack and the Beanstalk is an introduction for early elementary school kids to both meta-fiction and fractured fairy tales, all in a disarming and engaging package. The narrator's over-the-top responses are especially fun to read aloud. It's Not Jack and the Beanstalk is a joyful story, and would be a fun addition to any library or classroom serving preschoolers. We will certainly be reading it again in my house. Recommended!
Publisher: Two Lions (@AmazonPub)
Publication Date: September 19, 2017
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher
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