Traditional Thursday: Jack & the Beanstalk, retold by Jack Cech, illustrated by Robert Mackenzie

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This book follows the storyline of the classic well-known English fairytale Jack and the Beanstalk. There is a young boy named Jack, who lives with his widowed mother and they are very poor. Jack’s mother asks him to sell their cow in town, and Jack ends up selling it for beans he believes are magical, leaving his mother enraged, and their family with no money. When his mother throws out the beans, they awake the next day to find that a giant beanstalk has grown far up into the clouds. Jack climbs this beanstalk to find a sweet lady married to a hungry giant. The lady helps him, but as soon as the giant comes home, Jack is in danger. Jack hides, and after the giant falls asleep, he runs away and steals a goose that lays golden eggs. After the goose flies away, Jack foolishly returns to the giant’s home and convinces the giant’s wife to let him in again. When the giant returns, Jack hides once again, and after he has fallen asleep, Jack leaves, stealing a sack of gold coins. Eventually the sack disappears, and Jack decides to visit the giant one last time. This time, the giant’s wife decides to run away with Jack with a golden harp, but the giant awakes, and chases after them, and they narrowly escape. Jack and the town’s people cut down the beanstalk and they live peacefully with the music of the harp filling their valley.

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The storyline as a whole follows the original Jack and the Beanstalk, but there are some details that differ. In some versions, Jack steals just one golden egg, or steals the sack of golden coins first, but generally, the concepts are the same. The ending of the story also varies between versions, but Jack always defeats the giant. In other versions, Jack and his mother live humbler lives and buy back the original cow they sold. In contrast though, this new story is told in much simpler language and with less gory details. The illustrations are much more vivid and fill up the entire page, intriguing young readers. Many original versions of Jack and the Beanstalk don’t contain many illustrations, but these images are essential to the storyline. The giant illustrated in the book helps elicit fear, without the gory details described in the original story. Overall, the fairytale shares the same lessons and values as the original, while being friendlier to a younger age group.

Posted by Neena Kapoor

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