“Jack: The True Story of Jack and the Beanstalk” by Liesl Shurtliff is an exciting new twist on traditional Jack fairy tales.
When a wooden-legged tinker tells everyone the giants are back after an absence of hundreds of years, they all think he’s crazy — until the sky starts to rain dirt; roaring thunder shakes the earth; and crops, animals, people and even whole towns disappear overnight.
One night, giants attack the family farm and Jack watches helplessly as giants carry away his father. Jack knows he must go to the rescue, and the only way to go is up — up a giant beanstalk that grows from a seed the crazy tinker gives Jack for Milky White, the family cow.
But Jack doesn’t count on his pesky little sister, Annabella, following him up the beanstalk. Although he is initially annoyed, he finds that she can sometimes be very helpful. In addition to giant people, they encounter gold-hungry pixies, monster insects, frogs, snakes and mice — and a few really nice surprises.
After the adventure is over, Jack discovers that when it comes down to it, nothing is more important than family and growing green things.
The author has created some truly likable characters. Although Jack is mischievous, he is also courageous and kind-hearted. His sister, Annabella, is persistent, bright and resourceful. The giants aren’t the stereotypical “fee, fi, fo, fum” variety, and the magic behind the hen that lays the golden eggs is revealed.
It’s a well-written, fun, family-oriented, kid-friendly book that contains no swearing or lewd language or sexual content and has some minor fairy-tale and comic violence written in an age-appropriate way.
Shurtliff lives in Chicago with her husband and three children. A fractured retelling of “Little Red Riding Hood” is in the works, according to press materials.
Rosemarie Howard enjoys creating multimedia projects. Her website is at dramaticdimensions.com.