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The Picture Book Buzz

It's Not Jack and the Beanstalk - Perfect Picture Book Friday #PPBF

How come fairy tale characters are so naive? But what if they weren't? Wouldn't it be more interesting if they were more realistic, even maybe a little snarky? In re-imagining this fairy tale, Josh Funk creates an amazing fractured fairy tale that breaks the fourth wall. Envisioning Jack as a petulant, self-interested kid, arguing over the finer parts of the story with the narrator, is pure genius.

It's Not Jack and the Bean Stalk

Author: Josh Funk

Illustrator: Edwardian Taylor

Publisher: Two Lions (2017)

Ages: 4-8



Fairy tales, self-determination, and humor.

Synopsis (from Barnes & Noble):

Jack is not fond of the bossy narrator of his fairy tale! When Jack is told to trade his beloved cow Bessie for some magic beans, throw the beans out the window, climb the ENORMOUS beanstalk that sprouts overnight, and steal from a GIANT, he decides this fairy tale is getting out of control. In fact, he doesn’t want to follow the story line at all. Who says Jack needs to enter a life of daring, thievery, and giant trickery? He takes his story into his own hands—and you’ll never guess what happens next!

With laugh-out-loud dialogue and bold, playful art (including hidden fairy tale creatures for kids to find), this Jack and the Beanstalk retelling will have children rolling with laughter till Bessie the cow comes home.

Opening Lines:

Once upon a time, Jack lived in a tiny cottage in a dreary village.

He always dreamed that someday he would find his fortune.

Psst! Jack! Wake up!

"No-o-o-o, I'm dreaming . . ."

And put on some pants!

Why I like this book:

From the beginning, you immediately know this is not your mother's fairy tale. Using various type fonts - normal for the narrator's standard lines, bold when the narrator addresses Jack, and colored speech bubbles for each character - Josh Funk and Edwardian Taylor create a magnificent new take on Jack and the Beanstalk.

As the narrator attempts to tell the story, Jack continually interrupts, pouts, and refuses to cooperate. He openly challenges every lousy, crazy moment of the traditional story. He bawls over selling Bessie (his best friend), balks at throwing perfectly edible beans out the window (he's so hungry), and resists climbing the giant beanstalk ("SERIOUSLY?").

Edwardian Taylor enhanced the silliness through the cartoon quality of Jack's over-sized head and disproportionate body. His depiction of the starry and googly-eyed magic beans and Jack's comical channeling of a magician, a fairy godmother, Merlin, and Alibaba further demonstrate the humor and silliness abounding in this tale. Edwardian added another layer to the story by scattering numerous fairy tale and Mother Goose characters throughout the story.

Jack's cheekiness causes the narrator to break from the tale to argue with him. Ultimately, Jack circumvents the narrator and plots with the other characters - the giant and Cinderella - to change the tale. The dismayed narrator eventually figures out that "all's well that ends well." This is an excellent mentor text on breaking the fourth wall and finding a unique way to fracture a fairy tale with a giant dose of humor.


- plant bean seeds. Glue a castle to one end of Popsicle stick, add cotton clouds, and place in the dirt. Then as it grows, wrap bean vine up the stick.

-write your own story (prompt: If you went up a beanstalk, what would you find at the top?)

This post is part of a series by authors and KidLit bloggers called Perfect Picture Book Fridays. For more picture book suggestions see Susanna Leonard Hill's Perfect Picture Books.

Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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