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Great Illustrated Books

Kate and the Beanstalk

By Mary Pope Osborne, Illustrated by Giselle Potter

Atheneum/Anne Schwartz Books, 2000
Pages : 40
Suggested Ages: 5-9
ISBN: 0689825501

Inspired by Andrew Lang's version of "Jack and the Beanstalk" published in 1890, Mary Pope Osborne has reworked the familiar tale to give us a female protagonist, the plucky Kate. Like Jack of old, she sets out to sell the cow and ends up trading it for a handful of magic beans. Her mother is horrified, of course. (Wouldn't you be?) She tosses the beans out the window, and overnight, a beanstalk grows. (You might want to plant string bean seeds outside or in a pot and grow your own mini-beanstalk.) Here's where the story takes a turn. Climbing up the beanstalk, Kate meets an old woman who tells her how the fine castle above the clouds once belonged to a noble knight until a monstrous giant killed him and took it over. The knight's wife and baby were in the valley below, but now they were poor and close to starving.

Aha! Now we have justification for Kate to steal back from the dreadful giant the knight's three most precious possessions: the golden egg-laying hen, the bag of gold coins, and that talking harp. Kate, not recognizing herself in the old woman's tale, of course, sets out to right a few wrongs, helps the poor mistreated giant's wife out with the cooking, and robs the giant blind. You'll have such fun reciting the big oaf's adjusted refrain: FEE, FI, FO, FUM'UN, I SMELL THE BLOOD OF AN ENGLISHWOMAN.

Giselle Potter's folk art-style watercolors are loads of fun, and readers will enjoy contrasting this version to others starring Jack instead of Kate. Then see how another plucky girl takes on giants in Osborne's The Brave Little Seamstress.

Reviewed by : JF.

Themes : FAIRY TALES. FOLKLORE.

If you love this book, then try:

Beneduce, Ann Keay. Jack and the Beanstalk. Philomel, 1999.


Briggs, Raymond. Jim and the Beanstalk. Putnam, 1989.


Cauley, Lorinda Bryan. Jack and the Beanstalk. Putnam, 1983.


Chase, Richard. The Jack Tales. Houghton Mifflin, 1943.


Donaldson, Julia. The Giants and the Joneses. Henry Holt, 2005.


Galdone, Paul. The History of Mother Twaddle and the Marvelous Achievements of Her Son, Jack. Clarion, 1979.


Garner, Alan. Jack and the Beanstalk. Doubleday, 1992.


Gerstein, Mordicai. Carolinda Clatter. Roaring Brook, 2005.


Haley, Gail E. Jack and the Bean Tree. Crown, 1986.


Hicks, Ray. The Jack Tales. Callaway, 2000.


Johnson, Paul Brett. Fearless Jack. McElderry, 2001.


Kellogg, Steven. Jack and the Beanstalk. Morrow, 1991.


Osborne, Mary Pope. The Brave Little Seamstress. Atheneum, 2002.


Osborne, Mary Pope. Sleeping Bobby. Atheneum/Anne Schwartz, 2005.


Stanley, Diane. Rumpelstiltskin's Daughter. Morrow, 1997.


Steig, Jeanne. A Handful of Beans. HarperCollins, 1998.


Still, James. Jack and the Wonder Beans. Putnam, 1977.


Swope, Sam. Jack and the Seven Deadly Giants. Farrar, 2004.


Willey, Margaret. Clever Beatrice: An Upper Peninsula Conte. Atheneum, 2001.

Critics have said

With her Princess Leia-style hairdo, a few disguises and a can-do attitude, Kate comes across as a real action heroine, whether setting off determinedly with the family cow, nipping up the beanstalk or pedaling an eggbeater to assist the giantess in preparing breakfast. There's much to enjoy in this spunky picture book, which puts a fresh face on an old favorite.
Publishers Weekly