________________ CM . . . . Volume XIX Number 30 . . . . April 5, 2013


It's Not About the Beanstalk! (Easy-to-Read Wonder Tales).

Veronika Martenova Charles. Illustrated by David Parkins.
Toronto, ON: Tundra Books, 2013.
64 pp., pbk. & EPUB, $7.99 (pbk.).
ISBN 978-1-77049-327-8 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-77049-332-3 (EPUB).

Subject Heading:
Fairy tales.

Kindergarten-grade 2 / Age 5-7.

Review by Alicia Cheng.

***½ /4



Now, the giant had three daughters of his own, and his wife put all six girls into the same bed. The giant went to say good night. Pretending to play, he hung gold necklaces around his daughters' necks. Then he put straw ropes around the necks of Molly and her sisters. How strange, thought Molly. When everyone was asleep, Molly crept across the bed and switched the necklaces. (From "Molly and the Giant".)

Based on a popular fairy tale, Jack and the Beanstalk, Veronika Martenova Charles interweaves this popular story told from different countries into her own frame story. This framework builds a unified storyline and helps to introduce each version. It is believable when three friends share stories with each other, and more so when they hear different versions. Essentially, readers are hearing three different stories that share many similarities. All of these stories are about a boy or a girl who tricks a giant to gain his wealth. The repetitive parts of these tales will help young readers build their vocabulary and literacy skills. While similar, each tale is slightly different enough to sustain readers' interest.

internal art      The frame story begins with Jake, Lily, and Ben playing in the backyard where Jake wants to climb the tree. They have clearly heard stories of Jack and the Beanstalk. Jake believes there might be a treasure in the giant's house. Jake and Ben argue over whether the story occurred on a beanstalk or a bean tree. And so, Jake tells them a story called "The Bean Tree", a Jack and the Beanstalk tale from Appalachia. In this version, Jake climbs the bean tree to look for his father's treasure, a hen that lays golden eggs. Using his wits, along with some help from the giant's wife, Jack is able to run away.

      Ben, however, remembers the story to be about a boy who took a treasure from a troll. His story, "Olaf and the Troll", is from Norway. After a poor man dies, the two older sons decide to leave home to find work. Olaf, the youngest, is told that he will never find work, but, just like his brothers, he ends up finding work at the palace. His jealous brothers create a rumour that Olaf can catch the seven silver ducks and take them from the troll. The king soon finds out and tells Olaf to go and get the ducks. With just a bag of seed, Olaf is able to complete the task. Again, his brothers spread a rumour, this one being that Olaf can get the golden harp across the lake. Olaf goes again, but this time the troll catches him; however, Olaf tricks the troll's daughter and escapes.

      After Ben's story, Lucy also remembers a story of a girl who had to help the king get something from a giant. She proceeds to tell a Scottish tale about a girl named Molly. The story begins in a fashion similar to Hansel and Gretel. Molly, the youngest child, is left by her father with two other siblings in the woods. Instead of arriving at the witch's house, they come to a giant's house. The giant's wife warns them of her husband, but she still welcomes them into her home. At night, the tricky giant hangs gold necklaces around his daughters' neck and straw ropes around Molly and her sisters' necks. Molly swaps the necklaces and escapes with her sisters.

      The layout of the book makes the stories more accessible for young readers. The use of double spaced text and a larger font creates a lot of white space and especially helps those that are reading by themselves for the first time. Elements of picture books remain as each pair of facing pages has one or two drawings. Rarely will there be a page without any illustrations. For readers who have just graduated from picture books but are not quite ready for chapter books, It's Not About the Beanstalk! serves as an excellent in-between stage.

Highly Recommended.

Alicia Cheng is a Children's Librarian at the Vancouver Public Library in Vancouver, BC.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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ISSN 1201-9364
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