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Crazy Jack
Napoli, Donna Jo
Teen Fiction NAPOLI

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From Publishers' Weekly:

Revisiting Jack and the Beanstalk, Napoli (Spinners) makes the plot bleaker but the message inspirationalÄan uneasy mix that reduces rather than expands the impact of the familiar story. Jack is nine when his father gambles away the family farm and later accidentally steps off a cliff to his death. The narrative then skips ahead seven years. Jack batters himself unconscious in a yearly attempt to climb that same cliff; it is to his madness that his mother attributes his famous exchange of their cow for magic beans. As in Beneduce and Spirin's version (see their Jack and the Beanstalk, reviewed above), this giant is complicit in Jack's father's death, but there are a number of innovations. Jack hopes to win back the love of his childhood sweetheart, Flora, whose purity stands in sharp contrast to the woman in the giant's castle, here a lascivious sort who cares more for riches than for freedom. Much is made of following one's dreams: e.g., the fairy who gives Jack the magic beans urges him to stay true to his love of farming. The stolen treasures lose their luxury once Jack comes back to earthÄthe hen (no, not a goose) remains a prolific layer but of ordinary (not golden) eggs, the lyre becomes an instrument for Jack ("I play a freedom song for the woman of the castle"). It is no surprise when Flora leaves her materialistic suitor for Jack with his good values. Napoli has made an odd trade of her own, swapping the boundlessness of archetypal fantasy for a touch of piety. Ages 12-up. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

From Library Journal:

Gr 7-9-Once again, Napoli offers an original story with a familiar folktale at its heart. This time it's "Jack and the Beanstalk" set in medieval England. Jack and his parents manage to scratch out a marginal living from their fields, until his father's sudden and mysterious death. As the years pass and life grows harder, the young man is tormented by questions about this death and by his seemingly impossible love for Flora, his childhood playmate. People begin to call him "Crazy Jack," a name that seems justified when he trades the family cow for a handful of beans. However, as readers will suspect, these are no ordinary beans and the tale of the giant and the beanstalk unfolds and expands into a coming-of-age story. The author skillfully contrasts the peasants' harsh lives with the overblown riches of the Giant's land in the clouds, where a seductive woman plies Jack with food and drink. Napoli's present-tense narrative gives immediacy, though use of the first person sometimes results in a choppy narrative flow. While some ambiguities remain, the conclusion of the story is a satisfying one and readers will enjoy meeting Jack and his beloved Flora.-Ruth S. Vose, San Francisco Public Library (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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