A bean, a stalk and a boy named Jack; 3 out of 5 stars #bookaday

A bean, a stalk and a boy named Jack book cover

by William Joyce; illustrated by Kenny Callicutt
Moonbot Books/Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2014
ISBN: 978-1-4424-7349-2
Picture book, fiction, fractured fairy tale
YHBA nominee, 2016-2017
Interest level: K-3
Reading level: 2.0
3 out of 5 stars


This book sets out to be a new look at the story of Jack and the Beanstalk. The story starts where we meet the bean–who to me really looks like a pea–but anyway, the bean can talk. The kingdom where Jack lives, hasn’t had rain for so long that the crops, wells, and lakes have all dried up, but that’s not actually the biggest problem in the kingdom. The biggest problem is that King Blah Blah Blah has a “stinky pinky.” From this point on, the story is pretty silly, and doesn’t make sense in some areas.

A local wizard casts a spell on the talking bean, an enormous beanstalk grows, where Jack discovers a giant in the clouds, taking a really long bath and hogging all the water. So Jack convinces him to empty the tub, rides down the drain, the water washes the king’s little toe, crisis averted. The scene between Jack and the giant in the tub, is really kind of weird and didn’t flow well.

The best part of the book is the ending. The bean is thirsty, so Jack and Princess Blah Blah Blah, whose real name is Jill, head up a hill to fetch a pail of water for the bean. Very clever segue into a nursery rhyme and a new story.

The multimedia illustrations are created by Kenny Callicutt at Moonbot Studios. Their cartoon-like quality are fun and will be very appealing to younger children. While silly humor usually plays well with kids, I think that some of the word play and situations are too choppy and will be lost to them.

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