Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Book Review: Jack: The True Story of Jack and the Beanstalk

Release Date: April 14, 2015
Author: Liesl Shurtliff
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Length: 304 pages
Source: Library Audio Book

Jack has always been told that giants are not real. But if that’s the case, how do you explain the huge, foot shaped pond in the yard, or the occurrence of strange and sudden storms in which the earth quakes and dirt rains from the sky?

When his father is carried away in such a storm, Jack gives chase in the only logical way: by trading the family cow for some magic beans that will give him access to a land beyond the clouds. He arrives to find that the giants themselves have giant-sized troubles. With the help of an overachieving little sister, a magic goose and a chatty cook (who is not interested in grinding human bones into bread, thank you very much!) Jack sets out to save his dad and save the day.



Protagonist: Jack is a trouble maker. Named after his many-times-great grandfather, Jack has always dreamed of being a hero and slaying giants, except as everyone has told him, giants aren't real. So without any giants to fight Jack spends his time causing mischief and mayhem. However, one day giants come down from the sky taking near everything and everyone in Jack's village with them. Now, with only a handful of giant "magic" beans Jack must figure out how to save his town and maybe solve the giants' problems as well. Jack is a very fun character, he's mischievous and likes to pick on his little sister. Though he isn't without a heroic side. He's not a heartless character who creates mischief with no regard to others, his worst crimes are purely accidental. He's a strong well-defined character who I believe will be very relatable for a younger audience.

World Building: Everyone knows the story of Jack and the Beanstalk, a story about a boy who climbs up a beanstalk to steal golden treasures from a giant. Well, this story is a little different. I was interested to see that this book wasn't a typical retelling. Instead of only focusing on the Jack and the Beanstalk story, there are other fairy tales woven throughout this much larger novel. We see tales such as the Elves and the Shoemaker, Tom Thumb, Thumbelina, and even hints of King Midas. I love it when authors add other fairy tales in with their main retelling, it, in a lot of ways, really brings this world to life so much more. The giant world is really incredible, to them, they aren't giants, so they call people Jack's size elves, and because of that, it's very easy to see how the fairy tales about smaller creatures can fit so well in this tale. I mean, it almost seems perfect for this type of retelling. There is also a bit of magic within this story and I really love how the magic was approached, it wasn't some end all be all thing that can nearly defy the laws of the universe, there's a give and take which I felt was really well ingrained into the story/

Predictability: This is probably one of the best books when it comes to a balance between predictable and unpredictable. Well, at least for me it is. Since this is not only a Jack and the Beanstalk retelling it made it harder to know what exactly was coming next. There were certain things that were pretty predictable, There were even things where I knew something or someone would be a very important part of the story but it would be hard to put my finger on just how the person or thing would help move the plot along.

Ending: So, I have to say, for the most part, I was really impressed with this ending. It does deviate from the traditional, Jack chops down the beanstalk and kills the giant, ending. And how the author changes it and fits it in with the main plot was done well. I have to say, though, everything wrapped up before the epilogue came about. If you've been around here a while you know I love a good epilogue, however here it felt extraneous, all it really does it beat in the not so subtle lesson of the book even more.


So, it wasn't that I didn't like this book, I really did, but it's more that I know if I was a lot younger I would have thoroughly enjoyed this a lot more. My only real problems with this book were the underlying message was a bit too obvious and pronounced and the epilogue wasn't really necessary.


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