Children’s Book Review: “Jack and the Beanstalk” by Steven Kellogg (1991)

“Retold and Illustrated by Steven Kellogg.

Steven Kellogg’s rendition of this classic tale remains faithful to the original tale, for the most part, and my five-year-old kids remained focused throughout. Generally, my rule-of-thumb for choosing books to read in front of this particular kindergarten class is this: any book (no matter how well-illustrated) needs to keep below fifty words per page, or else my kids start to fidget. Kellogg’s Jack keeps within these limits, and his story is scary enough also to keep the children holding on. And in keeping with the original story, Kellogg’s Ogre still eats little boys and he still dies in the end.

Kellogg’s illustrations are superb, I thought, specifically in his introductory pages. He shares Jacks’ background story without writing a single word: the ogre once rode a cyclone to a pirate ship from which he stole the gold, the chicken which lays golden eggs, and the singing harp. This single point does much to reinforce the idea that Jack isn’t necessarily “wrong” in the sense that he steals from the monster in the sky: after all, he’s only stealing from a thief who had stolen from other thieves! In fact, there’s an implication that perhaps the pirates had stolen from the King of Jack’s land (another point of illustration from his introductory pages), as well and an implication that Jack returns these objects to the King by eventually marrying the King’s daughter (the inklings of which are expressed in the illustrations on his concluding pages). These might prove to be good teaching points for the parents or teachers desiring to dig deeper with the story.

Beyond this, I also loved the tiny details of illustration on other pages throughout the book, for example the Ogre and his wife’s wedding photo hanging on the wall of their castle. These details make the book as enjoyable for parents to read as it is for the kids to hear. And something tells me they might ask to hear it a lot.

©2015 E.T.

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