cover image Clever Jack Takes the Cake

Clever Jack Takes the Cake

Candace Fleming, illus. by G. Brian Karas, Random/Schwartz & Wade, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-375-84979-4

The creators of Muncha! Muncha! Muncha! celebrate storytelling with a sparkling specimen of that very thing. Too poor to buy a birthday gift for the princess, Jack decides to make her a cake. He trades for ingredients, giving a hen seed for two eggs and kissing a cow for a pail of milk, and tops his confection with the "most succulent strawberry in the land." Jack proudly sets off for the castle, but blackbirds, a troll, and a dancing bear devour parts of the cake. He remains upbeat, even when only the berry remains—to which the princess is allergic. When Jack explains to the royal (who's bored by the jewels she's received) what became of his present, she is delighted: "A story!... And an adventure story at that! What a fine gift." Karas's gouache and pencil illustrations have a folksy quality and match the understated emotions conjured in Fleming's prose. With muted tones and subtle textures, the pictures capture the tale's humor (the dancing bear wears both a fez and a sly expression as it does its "shuffle-shuffle-kick") and Jack's earnest nature. Ages 4–8. (Aug.)