Author: Liesl Shurtliff
Genre: Middle Grade, Fantasy, Fairy Tale
Format: Hardcover, 304 pages
Publishing Information: April 14th 2015 by Knopf Books for Young Readers
Source: ARC for Review
Jack has always been told that giants are not real. But if that’s the case, how do you explain the huge, foot shaped pond in the yard, or the occurrence of strange and sudden storms in which the earth quakes and dirt rains from the sky? When his father is carried away in such a storm, Jack gives chase in the only logical way: by trading the family cow for some magic beans that will give him access to a land beyond the clouds. He arrives to find that the giants themselves have giant-sized troubles. With the help of an overachieving little sister, a magic goose and a chatty cook (who is not interested in grinding human bones into bread, thank you very much!) Jack sets out to save his dad and save the day.
I don’t read too many Middle Grade novels but after I heard that there was one based on Jack and the Beanstalk, I immediately added it to my list of “must read retellings.” Liesel Shurtliff takes a wonderful twist on the original story and creates a unique adventurous tale. Jack is an engaging book with fantastic world-building and it will take you on a brilliant journey.
Jack, whose mother constantly refers to him as a “naughty little boy,” believes he is destined for great things. After all, he is named after his great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather, who is known for bringing down nine giants. Jack’s father has told him all about his grandfather’s heroism but Jack longs to go on an adventure of his own. He doesn’t expect that much will happen on his small farm, especially since giants are regarded as a myth. Soon enough, Jack’s opportunity to live up to his name arises when giants begin to attack his village and kidnap his father to their land above the clouds. Jack is determined to retrieve his father and so he goes on an adventure with Annabelle, his younger sister, to the giant’s land.
Jack is a fantastic narrator — he’s funny, engaging, and quite teasing. Although he loves to cause mischief and trick others at the start of the book, he greatly develops as a character and learns many lessons about his previous actions. Additionally, Jack is incredibly determined when it comes to finding his father; he constantly comes up with creative ways to get past hurdles in his path. I really adored Jack’s younger sister, Annabelle — she is super sweet and quickly learns to conquer her fears. She actually ends up playing a much larger role in the story than I expected and ends up helping save the day.
But the thing that made Jack different was that he saw the small things, the things other people didn’t notice. (ARC, 250)
The world-building in this book is really well-done and extremely detailed. I was able to easily and vividly imagine the setting. I especially loved that Liesl focused on explaining even the smallest aspects of the giants’ land (ex. various bugs and foods) and making the world incredibly unique. Liesl also expands the giants’ land to include other creatures such as pixies, magicians, messenger dwarves, and human elves — she creatively weaves all of the various characters together to create a compelling tale.
Jack is a fun and engaging book that will take its readers on a terrific journey. It is filled with fantastic world-building, great dialogue, and wonderful characters, It also has great lessons for younger readers and teaches them that in the end, size doesn’t matter and even those who are small can accomplish great tasks.