Jack: The True Story of Jack and the Beanstalk by Liesl Shurtliff // I Guess I Could Only Read Contemporary Middle-Grade?

Monday, 4 January 2016
Jack: The True Story of Jack and the Beanstalk, by Liesl Shurtliff
Publication: April 14, 2015, by Knopf BFYR
Genre: Middle Grade Fiction, Fantasy, Retelling
Pages: 304
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher
Rating: ½

Jack has always been told that giants are not real. But if that’s the case, how do you explain the huge, foot shaped pond in the yard, or the occurrence of strange and sudden storms in which the earth quakes and dirt rains from the sky? When his father is carried away in such a storm, Jack gives chase in the only logical way: by trading the family cow for some magic beans that will give him access to a land beyond the clouds. He arrives to find that the giants themselves have giant-sized troubles. With the help of an overachieving little sister, a magic goose and a chatty cook (who is not interested in grinding human bones into bread, thank you very much!) Jack sets out to save his dad and save the day.

My Thoughts:

I used to be an avid middle grade fiction reader. That is what actually led me to discover the genre of young adult fiction and have me blogging. In fact, I am sure that I still have a few middle grade books on my Goodreads shelves, which is weird. Jack: The True Story of Jack and the Beanstalk is not true. It is also not a great middle grade novel, in my opinion. But at the same time, it could be enjoyable for many, and depending on the whack of middle grade you usually read, you could seriously enjoy it.

I am not the craziest person about retellings. An author must perfect the retelling and make it nice for every reader, even for those who have heard the story hundreds of times. I kind of know the story of "Jack and the Beanstalk" inside and out, and I would not even call this book a retelling of it, except for the fact that it uses the same name (Jack) and the same beginning. After that, Jack and his sister? go on an adventure together to save the ones they love. Yes, this is a fairytale, and impossibilities are possible, but COME ON.

This book was okay, it was certainly not the most irritating read out there. Jack's perspective is found throughout the story, and readers just head in a simplistic, one-way direction where we read the slow paced story for what seems like forever. The book is based simply upon fear, survival, and giants, if that makes some kind of sense. For people (and kids!) who enjoy that base of familiarity of children's stories that feature confident, bright protagonists who could be the age of the children who are reading this, this is perfect. Every reader is bound to find something in Jack that could have them relate to everything. 

The world building is actually extraordinary. The descriptions of the giants, the storm that started it all, the world above the clouds... I was mesmerized. It turned out to be difficult to let this book and its characters go for that reason. It is a fresh story, something that could give readers of other contemporary, perhaps, a change in scenery, just as if one were to head out of the fantasy genre and into romance, per se. 

It's not that this was not well written. I am a teenager, and because of my stubborn, selfish self (we all are, in some way!) this is not the kind of book for me. Others could enjoy it, I am in no way gearing people away from reading this. Shurtliff did manage to shock me in the end where I did produce some tears somewhere inside of me. The character relationships were part of it—that is the only thing I could spoil.

Jack is a good brother. In this case, a boy is doing something great for his family and is defying the stereotypes, being there for his sister and not pushing her away because they have no relationship. My heart is smiling. I promise.

Depending on your usual take on middle grade fiction, this could go either way for a reader. All in all, Jack was a cute story that boosted my energy, gave me smiles and left a message and moral, as most fairytales do. In this case, it was a story that could make a little kid and adult dream about the endless possibilities that our world has and how we could defy the impossibilities. I found myself bored here and there, but the pacing changes for all. I will not openly recommend it, though.

*A finished copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thank you so much!*

Do you like retellings when they are very similar to the original fable? Would you prefer a completely different interpretation?

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