My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Received: Raincoast Books
Publication Date: September 6th, 2016
Publisher: First Second
Recommended Age: 8+
Genres & Themes: Middle Grade, Graphic Novels, Retellings, Fantasy
Jack might be the only kid in the world who’s dreading summer. But he’s got a good reason: summer is when his single mom takes a second job and leaves him at home to watch his autistic kid sister, Maddy. It’s a lot of responsibility, and it’s boring, too, because Maddy doesn’t talk. Ever. But then, one day at the flea market, Maddy does talk—to tell Jack to trade their mom’s car for a box of mysterious seeds. It’s the best mistake Jack has ever made.
I couldn’t stop reading this original retelling of Jack and the Beanstalk in graphic novel format. Ben Hatke did a good job of mixing fantastic and realistic elements, keeping us grounded while teasing our imagination with peculiar creatures.
It’s summer, and like every summer, Jack is left to take care of his autistic sister, Maddy, while his mom works two jobs. One day, he trades his mom’s car for a box full of seeds. Planting these seeds, he discovers they have magical properties and give birth to plants with a mind of their own. Fortunately, they aren’t all bad. Unfortunately, they attract a certain dangerous dragon.
Jack thought his summer would be uneventful—he was wrong.
As you can see, there is no second magical realm in the skies Jack climbs to. He doesn’t fight giants, but he does fight malevolent creatures. His love for his sister makes him act protectively toward her. He grows as a character, gaining strength and courage. I wouldn’t mind reading more about him. The friend he makes—the fierce Lilly—helps him keep the garden in control. These are three-dimensional protagonists who make this story.
The art isn’t extravagant. It’s simple but it works. I’m actually reading this other graphic novel—Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant—and while the art is extraordinary, the story lacks the quality of this particular book. I can’t wait for the sequel to come out.
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