This is an extremely well-done graphic novel that will appeal to a wide variety of readers.
by Ben Hatke
First Second, 2016
203 pages : chiefly color illustrations ; 23 cm
Graphic novel, fairy tale adaptation
Interest level: grades 3-8; reading level: 2.8
Lexile measure: 200
5 out of 5 stars
Jack and his sister Maddy are beginning summer vacation by going with their mom to the flea market. Through illustrations of past due bills, and mom talking about working two jobs, readers will understand that Jack’s family is facing some economic hardships. We also learn that Maddy doesn’t speak. Hatke combines visual clues with the right level of language to handle these sensitive issues in a realistic and heartfelt way.
While at the flea market, Jack and Maddy encounter a mysterious man who wants to trade some seeds for their mom’s car. Maddy speaks for the first time, telling Jack to do it, and this modern retelling of “Jack and the Beanstalk” starts to take shape for readers.
Maddy and Jack are joined by Lilly, an adventurous girl who lives nearby, and together these three form a bond as they work on the mysterious and strange garden that begins to take over. The mysterious plants that grow, and the evil changes that the garden takes on, will engage readers. While the story is based on the fairytale, Hatke has given it a fresh, evil take that will keep older readers enthralled.
This is an extremely well-done graphic novel that will appeal to a wide variety of readers. Younger readers who like spooky stories, will enjoy this, as will older readers who might read below grade level. Word of warning! The book ends on a cliffhanger that will make you antsy for the next book. The second book should be out around September 2017.
For people who had read Hatke’s Little Robot, there is a fun cameo in this story to keep your eye out for.