A clever but disjointed take, with no Jack and no beanstalk.



From the Worldwide Stories series

This latest in the Worldwide Stories series is a culturally eclectic remix of the “Jack and the Beanstalk” tale from the pair who looked at Creation tales in First Light, First Life (2016) and the Cinderella story in Glass Slipper, Gold Sandal (2007).

This confusing, composite variant scarcely resembles the “Jack and the Beanstalk” rendering that most North American readers might know. The author draws on the stories of 16 different countries from Indonesia to Gambia, the United States to Mongolia, interweaving them into one narrative that will require multiple reads to interpret. With monsters that include an ogre, witches, the devil, and a giant, readers will wonder where the familiar pieces of the story are. Those acquainted with the variant arguably best known in North America will recognize “Fee, fi, fo, fum! I smell the blood of an Englishman” but little else. For example, there are no magic beans in this retelling. Where the narrative lacks cohesion, the unifying thread is left up to the illustrator. Paschkis’ comely folk-art–style gouache paintings recall the tapestries and textiles of the various countries represented in the story, and readers will be able to discern the main character in each illustration. It’s a shame that more extensive notes than the pointer to SurLaLune Fairy Tales and Margaret Read MacDonald’s Tom Thumb (1993) are not offered for those curious readers who would wish to further pursue the divergent iterations presented here.

A clever but disjointed take, with no Jack and no beanstalk. (Picture book/folktale. 5-8)

Pub Date: April 23, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-15177-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Godwin Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2019

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A unique angle on a watershed moment in the civil rights era.


The New Orleans school child who famously broke the color line in 1960 while surrounded by federal marshals describes the early days of her experience from a 6-year-old’s perspective.

Bridges told her tale to younger children in 2009’s Ruby Bridges Goes to School, but here the sensibility is more personal, and the sometimes-shocking historical photos have been replaced by uplifting painted scenes. “I didn’t find out what being ‘the first’ really meant until the day I arrived at this new school,” she writes. Unfrightened by the crowd of “screaming white people” that greets her at the school’s door (she thinks it’s like Mardi Gras) but surprised to find herself the only child in her classroom, and even the entire building, she gradually realizes the significance of her act as (in Smith’s illustration) she compares a small personal photo to the all-White class photos posted on a bulletin board and sees the difference. As she reflects on her new understanding, symbolic scenes first depict other dark-skinned children marching into classes in her wake to friendly greetings from lighter-skinned classmates (“School is just school,” she sensibly concludes, “and kids are just kids”) and finally an image of the bright-eyed icon posed next to a soaring bridge of reconciliation. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A unique angle on a watershed moment in the civil rights era. (author and illustrator notes, glossary) (Autobiographical picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-338-75388-2

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Orchard/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2022

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Engaging, well-chosen images and a clear, coherent text illuminate the importance of empathy for the world’s inhabitants.


Large color photographs (occasionally composed of montages) and accessible, simple text highlight global similarities and differences, always focusing on our universal connections.

While child readers may not recognize Manzano, the Puerto Rican actress who played Maria on Sesame Street, adults will recognize her as a trusted diverse voice. In her endnote, she explains her desire to “encourage lively conversations about shared experiences.” Starting out with the familiar, home and community, the text begins with “How many WONDERFUL PEOPLE do you know?” Then it moves out to the world: “Did you know there are about 8 BILLION PEOPLE on the planet?” The photo essay features the usual concrete similarities and differences found in many books of this type, such as housing (a Mongolian yurt opposite a Hong Kong apartment building overlooking a basketball court), food (dumplings, pizza, cotton candy, a churro, etc.), and school. Manzano also makes sure to point out likenesses in emotions, as shown in a montage of photos from countries including China, Spain, Kashmir (Pakistan/India), and the United States. At the end, a world map and thumbnail images show the locations of all photos, revealing a preponderance of examples from the U.S. and a slight underrepresentation for Africa and South America.

Engaging, well-chosen images and a clear, coherent text illuminate the importance of empathy for the world’s inhabitants. (Informational picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4263-3738-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: National Geographic Kids

Review Posted Online: May 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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