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Summary: In this adaptation of the classic fairytale Jack lives in the Appalachian Mountains. While he's walking his dog Jack encounters a giant woman who offers him shelter to avoid the raging storm. Jack is taken aback by the scale of everything - like the size of the coffee mug the woman gives him. When her two-headed husband comes home, he starts complaining about the food and decides that Jack might be tasty. Jack realizes that the giants are offering him a bed so that he can become their next meal. Thinking that Jack might be a curse, the giant gives Jack three impossible tasks. Jack is going to need to keep his wits about him if he is going to survive ... can he do it? This story is a retelling of Jack and the Beanstalk that immerses the story in Appalachian culture.
Type of Reading: bedtime story, playtime reading, independent reading, read aloud book
Recommended Age: read together: 8 to 10; read yourself: 9 and Up
Young Reader Reaction: This adaptation is most striking because of how it immerses the story in Appalachian culture. Words like "mud-fence ugly" and "busted up chairs" are particular to the region and do a lot to change the flavor of the setting and the characters. The illustrations are true to Appalachian imagery, too. The exploits in this version are like the original Jack tale and defy believability, especially the creek example. But the giants are faithful to the stereotype of stupidity. The feel of the story, despite the violence and threat, is acceptable to children, particularly due to Jack's innocent appearance and his dog's presence in every illustration. I would recommend this book, but would warn young readers that not all giants are as foolish as they are depicted, and that sometimes lies like the ones Jack says can backfire.
Pros: This version of the well-known Jack and the Beanstalk story immerses readers in Appalachian culture.
Cons: This story, like the original, does have violent elements that are accentuated with the dark colors of the book.
Borrow or Buy: Borrow. This story has more depth than the average Jack and the Beanstalk tale, but unless you live in Appalachia or have a passion for the region, this isn't a book you'd add to your library.
Educational Themes: There are thousands of versions of the Jack and the Beanstalk story, more broadly known as "Jack tales." Jack tales have historical origins in Scotland and this may be a way to explore all of those different stories. The setting in the Appalachians and the rich context in how the story is told can also introduce readers to a culture they may not know much about.
Notes: A Reading Tub® volunteer submitted this review. She borrowed the book from their local library.
Literary Categories: Fiction - picture book, fairy tale
Date(s) Reviewed: September 2014
Other Reviews: See Critics' Reviews at amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com.