cover image Jack and the Beanstalk

Jack and the Beanstalk

Richard Walker. Barefoot Books, $16.99 (40pp) ISBN 978-1-902283-13-5

Like Beneduce and Spirin in their adaptation of this staple (reviewed above), Walker (The Barefoot Book of Pirates) and Sharkey (The Gigantic Turnip) try to mediate its violence. But where Beneduce and Spirin lessen the impact of the violence by providing Jack with a motive, Walker and Sharkey soften the tale itself. The plot follows tradition; the big change comes in the giant's refrain, now ""Fee, fi, fo, fum! I smell the blood of a stinky man!"" The giant speaks these words just once, rather than in a terror-heightening sequence, and he certainly never threatens to grind Jack's bones to make his bread. Having removed much of the suspense, the text proceeds to a tepid conclusion in which Jack uses the stalk to catapult his foe ""into space.... And, as far as I know, he's still there."" Sharkey, working in semitransparent earth-tone oils, envisions the giant as a flat-headed Frankenstein with an oversize jaw and a serrated underbite, and Jack as an elfin type with an eggshell-white face and a cranberry-red jester's cap. It's a contemporary, puckish look, one that tells the audience not to take the story too seriously. Ages 4-8. (Oct.)