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Jacques and de Beanstalk Hardcover – April 1, 2010
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Grade 1–3—Artell and Harris's earlier Cajun retellings were celebrated for the clever regional twist they gave to familiar folktales. While Jacques and de Beanstalk uses that same voice, the story itself retains its original structure; there are no roles filled by alligators and no villains defeated with hot sauce. As such, the only value added to the canon by this version is that of accent. The combination of rhyme, rhythm, length, and dialect makes the story rather difficult to read aloud. The author seems aware that this may be the case and provides a glossary and pronunciation guide at the front, along with suggestions for how to emphasize the beats of each verse. A small quibble: the glossary defines "mon dieu" as French for "my goodness"—while this usage is correct, technically it translates as "My God." The illustrations are skillfully rendered in watercolor and pencil with a humorous over-the-top quality that suits the tall tale. The giant in particular is quite grotesque with his overgrown toenails and pointy head. As in this team's earlier books, a mouse (unmentioned in the text) accompanies the hero and takes part in the adventure. While it lacks the clever charm of the earlier volumes, this is a lively Beanstalk story, and it will be enjoyed where its precursors are popular.—Heidi Estrin, Feldman Children's Library at Congregation B'nai Israel, Boca Raton, FL
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Having delivered two successful Cajun-style fairytale retellings (Petite Rouge, 2001, and Three Little Cajun Pigs, 2006), Artell and Harris team up for the Cajun version of another familiar tale. Most of the usual elements of the classic tale are present; however, the setting is a bayou and the rhyming text is in the Cajun dialect. Pleasant watercolor-and-pencil illustrations featuring expressive characters expertly convey the drama, with Jacques perilously high on the beanstalk and the giant looming large. Jacques is not pictured as a simpleton, but rather as industrious, wide-eyed, and tricked by the oily magic-bean man. While the dialect is heavy, it is easily accessible even for those to whom it is unfamiliar. A suggested technique for reading the story aloud is given at the front of the book, along with the short glossary. Pair with Kate and the Beanstalk by Mary Pope Osborne (2000) and Look Out, Jack! The Giant Is Back! by Tom Birdseye (2001) for interesting contrasts and comparisons. Preschool-Grade 2. --Randall Enos