In this stylish retelling of the classic folk tale, penniless Jack climbs a magical beanstalk, outsmarts a greedy giant, and restores family fortunes.
In the familiar plot, when Jack’s mother sends him to sell their cow to buy food, he returns with “magic” beans instead. His distraught mother discards the beans, which sprout into a towering beanstalk. Thrice Jack scales the beanstalk, hides from the giant (who killed his father and stole their wealth), and exacts revenge by taking the giant’s hen who lays golden eggs, his gold coins, and his gold harp. When the giant finally pursues him, Jack takes his axe to the beanstalk. The familiar text offers no surprises, but blood-red endpapers decorated with a beetle and green beans portend an untraditional visual approach. In contrast to pale-skinned Jack and his mother, rendered in delicate black-and-white strokes, Töwe paints everything else in bold, emotionally charged hues. With a fish for an eye and another on her head, the giant’s green wife appears more than creepy, while the giant is a disconcerting, barely recognizable assemblage of animals, medieval buildings, shells, bones, insects, and plants. Every double-page spread offers arresting close-ups and perspectives, perplexing combinations, and powerful, surreal compositions to confound or delight, while the twisting, green beanstalk exudes kinetic energy.
An imaginative, dramatic, and surprising rendition of Jack’s famous adventure. (Picture book. 4-9)