Hamster princess Harriet faces a big problem in this “Jack and the Beanstalk” retelling.
Harriet and her loyal quail steed, Mumfrey, have been cliff-diving—a magical ability gained in Of Mice and Magic (2016)—when they’re approached by a cloaked chipmunk peddling magic beans. Mumfrey loses patience during the pitch and eats one. The resulting flatulence prompts Harriet to camp outside the castle. A massive beanstalk towers above them by morning—Mumfrey had a nighttime bathroom break, and it appears that quail fertilizer’s potent. Harriet and Mumfrey follow harp music up the beanstalk and to a castle, where “harpster” Strings (front half hamster, back half harp, amazing biceps from strumming herself) has been enslaved by the giant. She wants freedom to start a metal band; no one will be surprised when Harriet volunteers as drummer. Harriet must save Strings, a nail-biting rescue that includes stealing—by way of chewing—one of the giant’s shoelaces, rank with years of giant toe sweat and funk. The cliff-diving comes in handy in the final confrontation with the giant, but the story’s real resolution comes from threatening to sue the chipmunk for the damage his unmarked bean caused. This is vintage Vernon, sly text punctuated by clean, comic-style illustrations that manage to make even goose (“Honk?”) and quail ("Qwerk qwerk qwerk, werk-qwerk, qwark") dialogue funny.
Clever wordplay, wonderful character banter, and stinky humor make this outing another giant success. (Graphic/fantasy hybrid. 7-12)