Review posted March 26, 2013.
Templar Books (Candlewick Press), 2012. 36 pages.
Here's a cinematic retelling of Jack and the Beanstalk set in what looks like 1930s America. Jack and his mom run a diner, but when a huge overpass is built, all their business goes away, and they're down to their last few pennies. Jack's mother sends him to buy some coffee beans, but then Jack meets a guy who looks like a bum under a city bridge who offers to sell him a can of magic baked beans.
Now Jack had read enough fairy tales to know that you don't turn down an offer like that. Also, baked beans were his favorite food in the whole world, so he couldn't resist tasting some magic ones. Thanking the man, Jack exchanged his last pennies for the beans and ran home.
You know how the story goes. This vine, instead of growing regular beans, grows cans of baked beans as it stretches high into the sky.
But this story has all the unkind and unethical bits taken out.
"We have visitors," boomed the giant.
"So I see," squawked the chicken.
"And we know just what to do with visitors, don't we?" said the giant. "Now you STAY THERE. I'll be back in a jiffy." And with that the giant grabbed a handful of the chicken's eggs and marched off to his kitchen. Soon the sound of clattering pots and pans was making the table tremble.
"Is he going to eat us, Chicken?" squeaked Jack.
"Don't be silly!" cackled the chicken. "He just wants to make you some lunch. He hasn't cooked for someone new in a long, long time."
You see, it's all good-hearted and ever so friendly. No nasty running off with the harp or stealing the goose that lays the golden eggs. (And instead of a harp, it's a magic radio. Instead of eggs of gold, the chicken lays eggs that taste good.)
I wasn't surprised to read at the back that Colin Stimpson has been an art director and production designer for Steven Spielberg and Walt Disney Feature Animation, because these paintings look like stills from an excellent animated feature film. He uses light to highlight the action. He has incredibly detailed three-dimensional-looking backgrounds. This would work well as a cartoon short.
But mostly, it's just plain fun. The nice giant helps good-hearted Jack and his mother (and his ever-present dog) feed plain working folk. And everybody ends up happy. Did I mention the book is beautiful to look at? This book will leave you smiling.