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Europe – English


Beneduce, Ann Keay. 1999. Jack and the beanstalk. Illustrated by Gennady Spirin. New York: Philomel Books.


Rating: ♥♥♥♥ (out of  ♥♥♥♥♥). (Picture from


Summary: Supported by a good fairy, Jack climbs the beanstalk three times and he has thee encounters with the giant. Through the encounters, Jack regains the wealth that once belonged to his father, and the greedy giant perishes.


Type: wonder tale


Characters: None of the characters have any depth. Jack is impulsive, adventurous, brave, clever, and fast. The giant is grouchy and greedy. Jack’s mother possesses common sense and is fairly helpless.


Setting: The opening sentence lets readers know that the story takes place a long time ago (“once”) in England during “the days of Good Queen Bess” (unpaged). The Author’s Note traces the English roots of this tale.


Plot:  This is a standard Jack and the Beanstalk story with a few twists. The good fairy provides motivation for Jack’s behavior – Jack is avenging his father’s death and taking back what rightfully belongs to him. Beneduce traces the story back before Shakespeare’s time but says that the good fairy has often been introduced during the “past few centuries” to provide “an acceptable motivation for Jack’s adventuring” (unpaged).  In some Jack tales, the giant is an ogre, but in this tale he is a fairy handsome giant.  Also, in some tales, Jack only steals one bag of gold, but here he steals two. Finally, some tales mention that Jack marries a “princess” at the end, but there is no mention of Jack marrying in this version.


Themes: The main theme is that evil actions and greed will eventually be punished.  A second theme is that braveness and the willingness to take risks may be rewarded. A final theme is that a clever boy can outwit those who are larger and more powerful.


Rating Considerations:  The story is well-written but a little wordy. The illustrations are superb.


Illustrations:  The watercolor and tempera paintings are magical. When Jack is down below, the paintings look fairly realistic, and they are filled with interesting patterns and detail. Once Jack ascends, some of the illustrations take on an “otherworldly” quality. The giant is enormous but not scary, and viewers delight in seeing his multiple chins and his greedy expressions.  The text is surrounded with attractive borders of food and bean pods.