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Monday, July 19, 2010

Jacques and the Beanstalk, written by Mike Artell and illustrated by Jim Harris. Dial, Penguin Group (Canada), 2010. $21.00 ages 5 and up

"If you like 'dem stories, I got one fo' you
About a young boy who live down de bayou.
Dey call dis boy Jacques and he live in a house
Wit' his old MaMA and a little brown mouse."

Mike Artell begins his story with a glossary to help readers with the French language included in his new fairy tale about Jack and his adventures with a beanstalk and a giant's domain. He also has suggestions for reading the book aloud and where the emphasis should be in each line of the couplets. And off we go!

It is the traditional story of Jack, his mother and their old cow. Jacques takes it to market and is met by a scam artist who trades it for some 'magic' beans. MaMA is furious and gets rid of the know what happens next.

The illustrations are great fun...larger than life, but for the miniscule Jacques, and even spilling off the pages at times. He gives an honest look at the tug of war between a small boy and a superhuman giant. There is an abundance of fun in the small details...the signs on the cow, the very expressive faces, the bumbling giant, the Mona Lisa postcard and the tally of days on the walls of the captured chicken's safety box and finally, the always changing perspectives. The language takes some work, with its bayou dialect. But, it's fun and worth working at to share this story with your children or students.

The final page shows MaMA, Jacques, the golden chicken and Jacques' little mouse companion happily sharing a story, while rocking on a handsome swing in a lovely garden. Underneath their feet a pile of golden eggs shimmers, a sure sign that they are sure to live 'happily ever after', with all their needs met.

I hope that you will notice what they are reading. It hints at another book that you are sure to enjoy from this talented team.

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