Stimpson’s authorial debut is a remaking of the timeless fairy tale that includes both a wonderfully fleshed-out city circa the 1930s and an ending that is happy for everyone.
Jack’s Fast Food is a hopping café run by Jack and his mother out of an old, broken-down burger truck. But when the new overpass closes the street out front, Jack and his mom fall on hard times. Per tradition, Jack spends their last coins on a can of magic baked beans, which his furious mother hurls outside. In the morning, Jack climbs the cans-of-beans–festooned beanstalk to find a friendly but lonely giant busily counting his money, “Fee-Fi-Fo-Fummy, / I’m always counting money. / Be it silver or be it gold, / It’ll make me happy— / Or so I’m told.” Jack, the giant, the magic radio and the giant chicken all bond over lunch, but a beanstalk mishap extends their visit indefinitely while opening a whole new chapter for the Baked Beanstalk Café. As in The Polar Express, Stimpson’s artwork masterfully evokes both the mood and setting of the story. Retro styling, colors and type all work together to convey an old-time, urban feel to the digital illustrations, which portray a world where suits and dresses are the dress code (both incomplete without a hat), and the streets are filled with classic cars.
Stimpson’s money-can’t-buy-happiness moral goes down easily with the help of his wonderfully atmospheric artwork. (Picture book. 3-9)