cover image Jack and the Beanstalk/Juan y Los Frijoles Magicos

Jack and the Beanstalk/Juan y Los Frijoles Magicos

Chronicle Books, Francesc Bofill, Arnal Ballester. Chronicle Books, $6.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-8118-1843-8

While these books' juxtaposition of English and Spanish texts may fill a need, the undistinguished retellings of familiar tales may deem the titles more suited to adult admirers of Spanish artist Ballester's sophisticated, minimalist paintings. Unfortunately, the pictures lack the kind of details and humor that appeal to young readers (e.g., the sloppy visual inconsistencies in Goldilocks: in one illustration, the bears' alleged little, medium and big bowls are virtually all the same size; and the heroine's gravity-defying locks are only sometimes golden--other times beige). The illustrations in Jack and the Beanstalk are stronger; one especially noteworthy painting shows Jack's perspective from atop the beanstalk as the fields beneath him stretch out in patches and stripes. The uninspired narratives, however, aren't likely to engage either beginning readers or a read-aloud audience--and fairy tale fans are likely to grouse about Goldilocks breaking the chair before she eats the porridge rather than traditional tellings that reverse the acts. Ages 3-8. (May)