We all know the story. Jack buys beans. Jack grows beanstalk. Jack goes on adventure.
…But what if the beanstalk fought back?
Title: Mighty Jack
Author and Illustrator: Ben Hatke
Source: Raincoast Books for review
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.
What starts as a normal little garden out back behind the house quickly grows up into a wild, magical jungle with tiny onion babies running amok, huge, pink pumpkins that bite, and, on one moonlit night that changes everything…a dragon.
What I Thought:
Retellings are always so fun. Taking something classic and reframing it in modern day situations brings a new level of appreciation for these stories and the lessons they teach.
I love reading children’s books that represent our diverse population, and so I was very excited when I realized that Jack’s little sister Maddy is autistic. I haven’t ever read a kid’s book with an autistic character and so that was a great opening for me to explain autism to my daughter. Hatke never comes outright and uses the word “autistic,” but it is heavily implied. The relationship between Jack and Maddy was wonderful.
There is also a homeschooled character in Lilly, the totally hardcore girl next door. She’s armed to the teeth, which comes in handy when the garden Jack planted takes on a life of its own.
The garden is amazing, and I don’t want to give anything away, but the dragon is pretty stinkin awesome, too.
Hatke does it again with his terrifically bright illustrations and fantastical imagination. I both loved and hated that this was only the first of a series – we want more! And we want it now!
This adventure is compelling, hilarious, and beautiful.
Ben Hatke also wrote Nobody Likes a Goblin, which I reviewed earlier this year (find it here) and is one of our favourite books!
And they all lived… WE DON’T KNOW HOW THEY ALL LIVED. C’mon, sequel!!