Off the Shelf: Jack and the Beanstalk

Jack and the Beanstalk is definitely more of a boys’ fairy tale, but I couldn’t resist this cute picture book by Jim Harris published by Rising Moon in 1997. He’s taken the story out of storybook land and thumped it right in the middle of the Wild West.


Stage and film directors often employ this old trick when they’re doing the classics by Shakespeare or the Greeks. Modernize the setting, wardrobe, and maybe even the language, and you can connect with an audience who might otherwise tune you out.

Little boys may not want to read a picture book with dainty fairy tale illustrations. So, here’s a version of Jack that’s ALL boy, through and through.

The illustrations make great use of dramatic angles as well as humor. For example, here are Jack and Momma — so poor they’ve got nothing but an old leather shoe to eat, nevermind the priceless work of art hanging on their wall. The kitty who is sitting on Jack’s head makes snotty remarks in all the illustrations.


Here is the dastardly peddler ready to trade Daisy for some magical beans.


I just love this one of the huge beanstalk vines creeping into Jack’s window.


Here is Jack at the Giant’s doorstep. In this version, the housekeeper is replaced by a cafeteria cook who has a bad case of stink eye.


Of course, the Giant can’t be just any giant. He’s got to be an outlaw with a reputation bad enough to curdle milk. He’s Wild Bill Hiccup, and he’s “ugly enough to peel the paint of a picket fence.”


Instead of a goose that lays golden eggs, Wild Bill has something a little more … western. A buffalo that lays solid gold turds.


This one of Jack is great. He’s such a pip squeak, but he takes himself so seriously.


The story follows the formula. In the end, Wild Bill gets his.


And Jack gets to keep the buffalo and the golden lasso — everything he lassos turns to gold. I love Ma hiding in the cactus on the right.



Do you like it when authors, stage directors, and movie makers alter the setting of a classic tale? Or would you rather they left well enough alone?


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