Happy Monday, Part two!
I'm also reviewing Jack: The True Story of Jack and the Beanstalk today.
Guys, I loved this book a ridiculous amount. Like, a ridiculous amount. I walked around grinning while I was reading it, and had that same warm glow that I had when I was first discovering a love of reading in elementary school.
So, yes. I loved this book, and read on to find out why!
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published April 14th 2015 by Knopf Books for Young Readers
Format read: ARC via publisher
Shurtliff introduces us to Jack, a young boy who lives with his farming family. The family has been struggling for years to protect their livelihood, and things are made all the more complicated when crops begin disappearing from the village and rumored giants are blamed. However, when the giants turn out to be true, and they end up taking Jack's father, it's up to Jack to rescue him with the help of a magic beanstalk...
While there are many things to love about Jack - and trust me, we'll get to all of them! - the first thing I have to point out, is the fact that Shurtliff absolutely nails Jack's voice. She channels every instinct and every thought of a mischevious young boy - including a natural instinct to torment his sister, and an appreciation for bugs - and it was a total delight to get into his head.
Because Shurtliff gets into his head so thoroughly, readers also perfectly understand just what motivates Jack to grow the beanstalk, and climb up after his father. There's a certain thirst to learn mentality about him, and readers will undoubtedly appreciate his wide-eyed appreciation for everything he sees, and how Jack sensibly figures out the correlation between the giant world and his world - e.g. the relative size of bugs.
It's also Jack's time in the land of the giants, which allows Shurtliff to thoroughly explore some nice, underlying themes about greed, and the ramfications for the collective good. The king of the giants - the aptly nicknamed, King Barf - is obsessed with gold, and pursues his obsession at the expense of the health and well-being of all those around him.
Shurtliff nicely shows the emotional and physical impact of the obsession on the giants, and how obsession can supercede all common sense. I especially loved her subtle recognition that other giants were just too afraid to stand up to the king because of his position of power, which can definitely spark some great conversations on how to use power wisely.
Jack ends - like most fairy tales - on a happy note. But Shurtliff is very clear that everyone's come away from the journey with great lessons on how to act better and be better, and this is absolutely what makes this a gem in my book.
Liesl Shurtliff has crafted a inventive, imaginative story that plays off of a well-known fairytale, but is elevated by her vivid imagination and flawless writing. This is the type of book that encourages young readers to think of creative solutions out of difficult problems, while also helping them learn the value of teamwork. It's a joy to read, and will undboutedly encourage younger readers to dream of being heroes and other worlds.
I highly recommend this book for all readers, full stop.
About the author:
Liesl Shurtliff was born and raised in Salt Lake City, Utah. Just like Jack, she was made to do lots of yard work, pulling weeds and growing green stuff she did not want to eat. Now she lives with her family in Chicago, where it is very hard to grow things in her elf-sized yard. She dearly loves the local farmers’ market and always makes her kids eat the green stuff.