Childrens Book Review of Jack: A Beanstalk Story Retold and Illustrated by Tomie dePaola

by DerdriuMarriner

The Jack Tales appear in Cornish and English legends, lore, and lyrics. Scaling the beanstalk counts among the most beloved. It gets super-charming spins in Tomie dePaola’s “Jack.”

An awkward, foolish, lazy youth answers to the name Jack in a number of the fairy tales, legendary stories, and nursery rhymes of:
• Cornwall;
• England.

The character appeals to listeners and readers of his adventures because of his underlying cleverness in channeling haplessness into happiness. He sometimes carries a last name, as in the cases of:
• Jack Frost;
• Little Jack Horner.
He contrastingly gets laudatory nicknames in the cases of:
• Jack the Beanstalk Climber;
• Jack the Giant Killer.

It is Beanstalk Jack’s character that gets recycled into Tomie dePaola’s folklorically illustrated and narrated “Jack.”




Jack's beanstalk finds prestigious representation in a Christmas display.

Melbicks Garden Centre, Coleshill, Warwickshire, West Midlands, England
Melbicks Garden Centre, Coleshill, Warwickshire, West Midlands, England


The characters in the Jack Tales generally are bumbling but endearing. They typically avoid being outright unlikeable. They nevertheless can be temperamental and unpredictable. For example, Jack Frost chooses to:

  • Avalanche and freeze detractors; or
  • Regale fans and friends with brown, orange, red, and yellow foliage and fern-iced windows.

The exceptional forays into petty misconduct usually confer an overall realism upon Jack. Jack’s personality indeed exhibits both anti-heroic and heroic qualities. For example, Beanstalk Jack exchanges his impoverished widowed mother’s milk-cow for beans, not money. But the beans give Jack access to a giant’s treasure trove of:

  • Gold coins;
  • Golden eggs;
  • Self-playing harp.

Jack and his mother live the rest of their lives in happy, healthy comfort.


A dairy cow, bred specifically for dairy products, is also known as milk cow, which features in one of most beloved and most famous of Jack stories:

Jersey cows, riginally bred in the Channel Island of Jersey, are a small breed of dairy cattle isolated from outside influences for over 200 years, from 1798 - 2008.
New Moor Farm, Walworth Gate, County Durham, North East England
New Moor Farm, Walworth Gate, County Durham, North East England


Jack appears to:

  • Know his candles and quills;
  • Respect his elders.

He does not leave his grandfather’s house without receiving permission to:

  • Enjoy lasting friendships;
  • Establish independent lodgings;
  • Experience city life.

Grandpa encourages Jack to seek the king’s advice regarding permanent quarters. Jack therefore heads to the city as planned. Along the way, he makes quick but lifelong friendships with:

  • Cat, chicken, cow, crow;
  • Dog, duck;
  • Frog;
  • Goose;
  • Horse;
  • Owl;
  • Pig;
  • Sheep.

He consequently obtains an audience with the king as one of a veritable phalanx of baaing, barking, grunting, hooting, meowing, mooing, neighing, quacking, riveting house-hunters. The king evidently rules compassionately and wisely since the correct fit is made between Jack’s crowd and a huge fixer-upper.


Jack: A Beanstalk Story by Tomie dePaola

When Jack sets out to see the world and find a place of his own, he’s surprised to attract a following of enthusiastic animal friends eager to join him on his quest.
Tomie dePaola stories



The updated telling of a well-behaved Beanstalk Jack-like character’s adventures blends beautifully with Thomas Anthony dePaola’s upbeat illustrations. The 2014-released publication generally gets librarian- and teacher-determined literacy levels of:

  • Ages 3 – 5 years;
  • Grades preschool through kindergarten.

It indeed lends itself wonderfully to formal and informal, individual and group activities relating to:

  • Animal art;
  • Faunal sounds;
  • Nursery rhymes (with cameo appearances of Jack and Jill climbing uphill and Little Red Riding Hood entering the forest).

It therefore makes for solid familial and pedagogical fun what with:

  • The fixer-upper;
  • The repetition of each friend’s home-seeking commitment round-robining like This is the House That Jack Built’s cat, cheese, cow, dog, farmer, horse, hound, judge, maiden, man, rat, and rooster


Tomie dePaola joins a creative circle of talented "Jack" artists, such as George Cruikshank, Maxfield Parrish, Arthur Rackham, Jessie Wilcox Smith ~

"Jack climbing up bean-stalk": designed and etched by George Cruikshank (September 27, 1792 – February 1, 1878)
George Cruikshank, The Cruikshank Fairy-Book (1911), p. 49
George Cruikshank, The Cruikshank Fairy-Book (1911), p. 49



My special thanks to talented artists and photographers/concerned organizations who make their fine images available on the internet.


Beguiling Jack stories have found favor with a wide range of formats and publishers, including the U.S. government:

"Jack and the Beanstalk": ca. 1936 - 1941 color silkscreen poster by Aida McKenzie for New York City W.P.A. Art Project
Work Projects Administration Poster Collection
Work Projects Administration Poster Collection

Sources Consulted


Cruikshank, George. 1911. The Cruikshank Fairy-Book: Four Famous Stories. New York and London: G.P. Putnam's Sons, the Knickerbocker Press.

  • Available via Internet Archive at: 

dePaola, Tomie. 2014. Jack. New York, NY: Nancy Paulsen Books.

dePaola, Tomie. 22 October 2013. “Jack and the Castor Bean Plant.” Tomie’s Whitebird, Inc. Retrieved December 22, 2013.

  • Available at:


the end which is also the beginning
the end which is also the beginning

Photo puzzle of Jack and the Beanstalk: image from Once Upon a Time (1969)

10x14 Photo Puzzle with 252 pieces. Packed in black cardboard box 5 5/8 x 7 5/8 x 1 1/5. Puzzle image 5x7 affixed to box top.
Photo Jigsaw Puzzle - PrintsPrintsPrints - Mary Evans Photo Library

Jack and the Beanstalk: black t-shirt ~ Available via AllPosters

Jack Beanstalk Tops
Ad AllPosters

Me and my purrfectly purrfect Maine coon kittycat, Augusta "Gusty" Sunshine

Gusty and I thank you for reading this article and hope that our product selection interests you; Gusty Gus receives favorite treats from my commissions.
DerdriuMarriner, All Rights Reserved
DerdriuMarriner, All Rights Reserved
Updated: 01/03/2022, DerdriuMarriner
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