cover image The Secret History of Tom Trueheart

The Secret History of Tom Trueheart

Ian Beck, . . HarperCollins/Greenwillow, $16.99 (341pp) ISBN 978-0-06-115210-8

British picture-book author/artist Beck appropriately opens his first novel with "Once upon a time." Not only does he weave into his book the plots of many well-known fairy tales, he also assumes a narrative voice and creates an atmosphere that fits squarely in the genre. Tom Trueheart is a timid boy, living in the shadow of his six brothers—all named Jack: "It was... these same six fabled, heroic Jacks who had carried out all of the toughest, scariest, and most romantic and exciting adventures so far to have happened in the Land of Stories." The "Story Bureau" gives each of the same-named lads a "beginning" and sends them off to complete the tales through their adventures. When the brothers fail to return home, the Bureau sends Tom a letter on the morning of his 12th birthday, summoning him to find his siblings. Through the third-person narrative that follows the various brothers (and a hint from Cinderella), readers learn that the Jacks have been kidnapped by Julius Ormestone, the writer whose task it is to create the Bureau's story openings and who is tired of the adventurers getting all the credit. Beck's casting of the Truehearts in the starring roles lends a fresh, often humorous air to Snow White and the seven dwarfs, the frog-prince and Rapunzel; the episodes culminate in a final showdown at the giant's palace atop a beanstalk. Beck's story is a quick read that at once pays homage to its chosen milieu and also serves as a worthy addition to it. Ages 8-12. (Feb.)