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Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Jack and the Baked Beanstalk, written and illustrated by Colin Stimpson. templar books, Candlewick Press. Random House, 2012. $18.00 ages 5 and up

"Early the next morning, Jack woke up to find his room bathed in a curious green light. Strange branches twisted in through the window. At the end of each shoot dangled a can of baked beans. "It's a magic baked beanstalk," Jack whispered to Bella..."

In this reworked version of the familiar Jack and the Beanstalk fairy tale, Jack and his mother are operating a popular diner. It is housed in an old burger truck that has enough mechanical problems to keep it stationary. They run a great business!

Then progress rears its ugly head. To get its people to work and back home in quick time, the city constructs an overpass. Once operational, it cuts off customers to Jack and his mother and their burger business slows to a trickle.Soon they are as poor as church mice with only pennies to their name.

Now, to familiar territory. Jack's mother sends him off with their last pennies for milk and coffee beans. You knew he would be enticed by magic beans, right? This time they are baked beans. His mother is as furious as the original one. She throws them out the window and sends Jack to bed hungry.

The beanstalk grows; Jack and his dog Bella climb it to find a huge castle, replete with a nattily dressed, gold-counting giant, a chicken and a magic radio that looks remarkably like the Chrysler Building. The giant is benevolent and a would-be chef. He loves to cook for company, and does so with great glee. Not only is he hospitable, he is understanding of the both the chicken and the radio wanting to explore new places. He is sad but walks them to the top of the beanstalk and wishes them well as they leave with Jack.

An unexpected split in the beanstalk's stalk and all are tumbled downward where they find new work, happiness in life and a happy ending for all.

I love the atmosphere that Colin Stimpson creates in his digital illustrations. They feel as if you are watching a movie set in 1930s New York. The backgrounds, the clothing, the vehicles...everything points to an historical place in time. The characters are friendly, helpful and happy...and the message that being so might be better than being rich is quietly observed. I like this new version!


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