From School Library Journal
Kindergarten-Grade 3—Jack, an endearing boy with apple-red cheeks, sells his cow for a handful of beans and climbs the beanstalk. The giant's wife feeds him and hides him three times from her uncouth, ever-hungry husband ("Fee Fi Fo Fum, I smell a visitor, yum, yum, yum./Fish or fowl, cold or hot, We'll cook him up inside my pot"), and forgives him for taking the giant's possessions. Because the bones of this classic tale are right, Cech's enhancements feel right, too. The unappreciated wife takes the harp and follows Jack down the beanstalk. The giant, who is afraid of heights, bellows loudly but stays put. Jack's mother, a compassionate woman who would rather have her boy than the treasures, welcomes the giant's wife as her friend. Any noises in the clouds can be blamed on the bellowing giant, forced to live on dry crackers since his wife left. Mackenzie's watercolor illustrations are done in a folk style using a green and gold palette with touches of red. The giant, with his very small head and bleary eyes, contrasts nicely with the rosy cheerfulness of Jack and his mother. Perspective is used to advantage, showing the beanstalk disappearing in the clouds and then the insubstantial base when seen from the top. Pair this retelling with Raymond Briggs's Jim and the Beanstalk
(Putnam, 1977) for an enormously satisfying storytime.—Mary Jean Smith, Southside Elementary School, Lebanon, TN
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Cech’s third entry in Sterling’s Classic Fairy Tale Collection series knits fresh strands into the Jack-and-the-beanstalk story. This smoothly paced version, which begins with some humorous wordplay, runs close to traditional tellings until the end, when the giant’s wife joins Jack in his hasty escape: “All I do here is cook and clean . . . And all he does is moan and gripe. I’m going down the beanstalk with you.” Once on the ground, the giant’s wife and Jack’s mom become best friends, while the giant, in another twist on the traditional tale, lives on, rumbling from above. Mackenzie ably ramps up the drama in the pencil-and-paint scenes of apple-cheeked Jack eluding the bulbous-nosed, ham-handed giant. The extensive final note, connecting the story’s motifs to archetypal tales throughout history, adds another reason for purchase, even in libraries where multiple versions of the story exist. Grades 1-3. --Gillian Engberg