CRAZY JACK by Donna Jo Napoli


Age Range: 12 - 14
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Napoli (with Richard Tchen, Spinners, p. 887, etc.) continues to retell familiar tales in this gripping novel about Jack and the events surrounding the beanstalk. Jack has a fine life, planning to follow his loving father in farming, and hoping to marry Flora, the girl next door, in a not- too-distant someday. When a drought dries up his father’s aspirations, the man goes off, and is said to have ascended into the clouds. Years later, Jack, tormented by nightmares, has lost everything, including Flora, who believes him to be mad; his mother sends him to market with the family cow, and the fateful trade that launches the old fairy tale is made. Napoli’s earthy variations on the traditional story make the magic more satisfying, for everything Jack steals at the giant’s home in the clouds is altered when he gets it home, e.g., the hen doesn’t lay golden eggs, but an unlimited number of real eggs, while the pot of gold turns into a bottomless source of stones, ideal for building a dream house to tempt Flora back. The world Napoli creates is at once well- known and strange, as if she is telling the truth, at last, about the story’s origins, and pointing the way to its later exaggerations. Her locale is one where magic works, but not too well, and where dark and psychologically truthful lives give meaning to the events of a childhood tale. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-385-32627-0
Page count: 134pp
Publisher: Delacorte
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 1999


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