cover image Mighty Jack

Mighty Jack

Ben Hatke. First Second, $14.99 trade paper (208p) ISBN 978-1-62672-264-4

In Hatke’s reworking of “Jack and the Beanstalk,” Jack must care for his younger sister, Maddy, while his single mother holds down two jobs over the summer. Maddy doesn’t speak, but she’s entranced by the magic seeds she and Jack pick up from a shady dealer at a flea market, in exchange for their mother’s car keys. Once they plant them, their home-schooled, sword-wielding neighbor Lilly is curious about their new garden, too—a little too curious. Hatke (Little Robot) revels in drawing the fantasy plants: green hands that reach out and grab, tiny onion-headed creatures, melons with teeth. Jack and Lilly argue about how to handle them: “These plants are dangerous!” he protests. “Open your eyes, Jack,” Lilly retorts. “Just because something’s dangerous doesn’t make it evil.” There’s action and menace aplenty, including a dragon whose ferocity only Maddy can quell, and flashes of intimacy, too, as when Jack’s mother’s anger melts into compassion as she sees her son in tears, or when Maddy suddenly speaks. Jack’s desperate efforts to juggle the needs of three complex female characters drive this sensitive retelling. The cliffhanger ending promises a sequel. Ages 10–14. Agent: Judith Hansen, Hansen Literary. (Sept.)