cover image Kate and the Beanstalk

Kate and the Beanstalk

Mary Pope Osborne. Atheneum Books, $18.99 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-689-82550-7

Osborne tweaks tradition with this feminist rendition of a classic fairy tale. Here it's Kate instead of Jack who trades her family's cow for magic beans, and later climbs the beanstalk to find a kingdom in the clouds. Like Ann Beneduce's recent Jack and the Beanstalk, Osborne draws from a late-19th-century source for her retelling that incorporates a disguised fairy queen and a motivation for repeated visits to the giantDavenging Kate's father's death. Osborne's witty and spry reworking (she changes the giant's famous refrain to accommodate Kate's gender, ""Fee, Fi, Fo, Fum'un,/ I smell the blood of an Englishwoman"") shows Kate in a confident light (""I fear nothing when I'm doing right,"" the heroine tells the fairy queen). Through her cleverness and resourcefulness (and the unwitting help of the giant's wife), the heroine earns back all that the giant usurped from her family. Potter's (Gabriella's Song) airy gouache and watercolor illustrations sparkle with humor and exploit the perspectives offered by the towering beanstalk. With her Princess Leia-style hairdo, a few disguises and a can-do attitude, Kate comes across as a real action heroine, whether setting off determinedly with the family cow, nipping up the beanstalk or pedaling an eggbeater to assist the giantess in preparing breakfast. There's much to enjoy in this spunky picture book, which puts a fresh face on an old favorite. All ages. (Oct.)