A traditional hero gets a courageous, compassionate makeover in this pleasing, well-illustrated story.

JACK AND THE LEAN STALK

In a twist on a familiar fairy tale, Jack rescues the bean crop and a sad Giant in this children’s book.

Young Jack Garbanzo lives with his parents. They’re farmers, but Jack prefers carpentry. The Garbanzos’ field of magical beanstalks has lost its enchantment and turned spindly ever since a green-skinned, droopy-eyed young Giant slipped from his cloud and fell into town. Ostracized and mocked, he’s been hiding in the bean field, where he sobs salty tears of misery every night. With the family’s bean harvest threatened, Jack ventures out one night to ask the Giant why he’s crying. He explains that “I’m a nice guy...well, Giant. I miss my mom, dad, and my cat, Puss ’N Boots.” He regrets ruining the crops but can’t go home now by climbing a beanstalk; the weakened plants won’t support his weight. Taking pity on the unfairly maligned Giant, Jack uses his woodworking skills to build a huge spiral staircase surrounding the tallest stalk. As he’s working, the townspeople come to appreciate the friendly Giant, and everyone says an affectionate goodbye when he’s finally able to climb home. Howell keeps her anti-bullying fable from becoming too preachy or heavy-handed, explaining simply that the townsfolk “did not like the clumsy Giant child who didn’t look like them.” Humor, often bean-themed, also uplifts the tale, as with the Garbanzos living in the town of Pinto. Gledhill’s well-composed, richly colored illustrations add another layer of whimsy through details such as fairies teasing the Giant’s pet frog. The mix of classic fairy-tale elements with an updated sensibility works well, and Jack is an appealingly brave and kindhearted hero, sneaking out in the middle of the night to visit the Giant everyone else fears or scorns.

A traditional hero gets a courageous, compassionate makeover in this pleasing, well-illustrated story.

Pub Date: May 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-64764-667-7

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Atmosphere Press

Review Posted Online: June 4, 2020

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The message is worthy, but this phoned-in follow-up doesn’t add anything significant.

THE WORLD NEEDS MORE PURPLE SCHOOLS

From the My Purple World series

A color-themed vision of what school should be like.

In what amounts to a rehash of The World Needs More Purple People (2020), Bell and Hart address adult as well as young readers to explain what “curious and kind you” can do to make school, or for that matter the universe, a better place. Again culminating in the vague but familiar “JUST. BE. YOU!” the program remains much the same—including asking questions both “universe-sized” (“Could you make a burrito larger than a garbage truck?”) and “smaller, people-sized” (i.e., personal), working hard to learn and make things, offering praise and encouragement, speaking up and out, laughing together, and listening to others. In the illustrations, light-skinned, blond-haired narrator Penny poses amid a busy, open-mouthed, diverse cast that includes a child wearing a hijab and one who uses a wheelchair. Wiseman opts to show fewer grown-ups here, but the children are the same as in the earlier book, and a scene showing two figures blowing chocolate milk out of their noses essentially recycles a visual joke from the previous outing. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

The message is worthy, but this phoned-in follow-up doesn’t add anything significant. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: June 21, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-43490-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: April 27, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2022

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The buoyant uplift seems a bit pre-packaged but spot-on nonetheless.

THE WORLD NEEDS MORE PURPLE PEOPLE

A monohued tally of positive character traits.

Purple is a “magic color,” affirm the authors (both actors, though Hart’s name recognition is nowhere near the level of Bell’s), and “purple people” are the sort who ask questions, laugh wholeheartedly, work hard, freely voice feelings and opinions, help those who might “lose” their own voices in the face of unkindness, and, in sum, can “JUST BE (the real) YOU.” Unlike the obsessive protagonist of Victoria Kann’s Pinkalicious franchise, being a purple person has “nothing to do with what you look like”—a point that Wiseman underscores with scenes of exuberantly posed cartoon figures (including versions of the authors) in casual North American attire but sporting a wide range of ages, skin hues, and body types. A crowded playground at the close (no social distancing here) displays all this wholesome behavior in action. Plenty of purple highlights, plus a plethora of broad smiles and wide-open mouths, crank up the visual energy—and if the earnest overall tone doesn’t snag the attention of young audiences, a grossly literal view of the young narrator and a grandparent “snot-out-our-nose laughing” should do the trick. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10.4-by-20.6-inch double-page spreads viewed at 22.2% of actual size.)

The buoyant uplift seems a bit pre-packaged but spot-on nonetheless. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-12196-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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