Monday, September 18, 2017

It's Not Jack and the Beanstalk

It's Not Jack and the Beanstalk
written by Josh Funk; illustrated by Edwardian Taylor
2017 (Two Lions)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

Spoiler alert: A giant lives here. Can I go home now? 

Jack is not a happy camper. Issues with a giant? Not really. More like an overbearing narrator. First, he's told to give away his best friend in the world. This leads to a river of tears from Jack and the cow. But hey, these are magic beans! Well, if you're hungry, that doesn't do you any good. Jack is so cranky that he tosses the beans out the window. When he wakes up, there's a rather large beanstalk outside. And a pushy narrator telling him that he has to climb it without any equipment since readers have been told that Jack has no possessions. Jack puts on a brave face as he climbs the beanstalk. He meets Cinderella on his way up as she is standing on a balcony in her castle. Their ensuing conversation ticks off the narrator because it impedes the flow of the story. I love it because it reminds me of the great "This is SportsCenter" commercials on ESPN where worlds collide. Jack has some trepidation about entering the castle. He questions the narrator who forcefully exclaims that Jack must enter the house. Sure enough, the giant captures Jack. But when Jack explains, against the wishes of the narrator, that it doesn't end well for the giant, the story takes a much different road than the one through Traditionville. And that, as Robert Frost once wrote, makes all the difference.

Where do I start with all the reasons why I love this book? First and most of all, this is such a fun and funny read. Your day will instantly improve after reading it. If you use it as a read aloud, you can count on having to read it more than once. But there are also several teaching opportunities available here. The back and forth between Jack and the narrator is terrific. This story would help teachers be able to explicitly talk about the role of a narrator and teach a point of view mini-lesson. The design of the book helps immensely with speech bubbles for Jack's "outside the narrative" conversations. There's also the element of Jack questioning the authority of the narrator. That's great role modeling for our need to ask questions and occasionally challenge authority. Mentioned earlier, the meeting of Jack and Cinderella is a mash-up that opens up a lot of writing possibilities. What if this character met that character? How would the dialogue go? Speaking of dialogue, you could use this book to create an entertaining Reader's Theater script/classroom play. With delightful twists and turns, you'll be glad It's Not Jack and the Beanstalk.

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