Sunday, August 9, 2015

Jack by Liesl Shurtliff

Cover image for Jack : the true story of Jack & the beanstalkThis is the sequel to Rump that I read last month.  It is a retelling of the story of Jack and the Beanstalk, but is also includes winks at a bunch of other famous fairy tales.  Jack is a "naughty" son of a farmer.  He doesn't like to work and he loves to play practical jokes on people.  He also loves his father's stories about his great-great-grandfather, who was Jack the Giant Slayer. Jack only half believes the stories but secretly hopes that one day he will grow up and have the kind of adventures his ancestor had.  His wish comes true, but sooner than he anticipated.  One day two giants come down out of the sky and steel all the food on Jack's  farm, plus their calf and with it, Jack's father.  Jack vows to find a way up to the Giant kingdom to save his "papa".  He discovers a peddler selling giant "magic" beans.  Of course, they grow into giant beanstalks, and Jack climbs up them and enters the giant world.  So far it sounds like a typical "Jack and the Beanstalk," right? But once he gets into the giant world, that is when things go a little crazy, If you plan to read the book, don't read any further (spoiler alert) It turns out that the world he arrives in is the castle in Rump.  It is a few months after Rump has left.  King Barf is still obsessed with gold, but now has a hen that lays golden eggs. Jack is adopted by kindly Martha, and discovers that there are many people his size living in the castle. For the rest of the book Jack searches the giant world for his father with the help of his new friend, Tom Thumb, and his sister, whom Martha calls Thumblina,

I liked this book well enough.  I thought it was clever that Shurtliff wove in parts of so many other stories, including the Elves and the Shoemaker, the Little Old Woman who Lived in a Shoe, and of course, Tom Thumb and Thumbelina.  I also thought it was ingenious to make the normal humans in the first book, the giants in the second.  However, I didn't like this book as well as the first book because of pacing.  It really slowed down in the middle. Jack went here looking for his papa, and then there, looking for his papa.  He said, "I have to find my papa" about a thousand times without really forwarding the plot.  I think it was an editing issue.  Authors who are successful with their first book think they don't need an editor for their second. Still, over all it was a fun story and likeable characters.  (269 p)

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