Review Blog

Jul 29 2019

Jack and the beanstalk by Matt Ottley

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Scholastic, 2019. ISBN: 9781760660581.
(Age: all) Highly recommended. Themes: Classic tales, Fairytale, Giants. The classic tale of Jack and the beanstalk has been retold and illustrated by award winning author/illustrator Matt Ottley. The first page shows an impoverished family, thin and ragged, with a poor cow so starved that its ribs are obvious, having to make a decision about their most precious possession. From there the illustrations cover the pages as they tell the tale of Jack and his cow going to the market. Children will sympathise with the decision that has to be made, wondering what they would do in Jack's place. Along the way to town, Jack is waylaid by an old man who exchanges three magical beans for the cow. Jack's mother is incensed and throws the beans out of the window, sending him to bed. But the beans are magical and a beanstalk grows up into the sky. Climbing the beanstalk, Jack finds he is in the giant's grip and must escape doing so with the giant's magic singing harp and golden egg laying hen.
A well known fairytale, Jack and the beanstalk has been revisited many times since it first appeared as The story of Jack Spriggins and the enchanted bean in 1734. The story was published in 1807 as the The History of Jack and the beanstalk, and then Joseph Jacobs included the most well known version in his English Fairy Tales in 1890.
A story of a poor boy winning against a huge giant will always win friends as readers pit themselves against the giant, willing Jack to succeed and return home with something good for his mother. His poor family is enriched by the fabulous hen and can enjoy the music played by the harp. The giant is a nasty giant, eating Englishmen so deserves to fall from the beanstalk. His refrain will cheer the hearts of the readers as they practise the small poem, repeating it as the giant comes into the story.
Ottley portrays his characters with a great deal of humour. I love the images in the giant's house of necessity looming over the tiny Jack, the giants' feet and hands, large, gnarled and lumpy coming out at the reader. Readers will love looking at the detail included by Ottley, the shadows, the cow's eyes and eyelashes, the castle, the giantess' thongs, the bones under the table and the bright green endpapers, and ask for the story to be read again.
Fran Knight

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