cover image Jack's Tale

Jack's Tale

Patrick C. Walsh, Ellen Stoll Walsh. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt P, $15 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-15-200323-4

In Walsh's (Mouse Paint) spontaneous and crafty story-within-a-story, a pencil-toting frog author recruits a reluctant Jack (who's also a frog) to be the main character in a fairy tale. Vowing that he'll be famous, the author tells Jack that his job--to rescue a princess who has been frog-napped by trolls--isn't difficult: he need only ""Go through the story one page at a time.... And, Jack... be extra careful in the middle."" When ""by nightfall Jack had reached the middle of the book,"" he curls up against a rock to sleep, dangerously close to the snoozing villains. He comes out a hero, of course, wins the princess's webbed hand in marriage and in a somewhat ambiguous ending ""forgave the author"" (though it's not very clear for what). Walsh's understated humor creates several bright spots here (e.g., an old frog warns Jack to avoid getting caught by the trolls, for ""Once you have been somebody's dinner, you'll be absolutely useless""), and her subtle cut-paper collage art underscores the dry wit. Children accustomed to seeing frogs come up short in most fairy tales will delight in seeing them reign in this one. Ages 4-8. (Oct.)