Monday, June 7, 2010

Jack and the Beanstalk

Today was the last official day of school, and even though I've done a TON of outside reading, my mind is still there. For the past month, I've been reading Jack and the Beanstalk stories to third grade students. They all knew the story already, of course, but we read two different versions, and then ended with a readers' theatre.

I began with E. Nesbit's retelling of Jack's story, with pencil and watercolor illustrations by Matt Tavares. This is a hefty book - a thirty-minute read-aloud, in fact. Because it delves deeper into Jack's story than I remember ever reading before. We learn about the land in the sky where the giant lives, told by a fairy who serves as a guide to Jack on his first trip up there. Jack's father had opposed the giant long ago and was killed by him for it. Thus, Jack's killing of the giant at the end of the story serves to avenge his father's death. Originally written in the early 1900s, this version is dated, of course, with references to trousers and I can't think of what else, and the language is rather flowery, if you will. It begs to be read aloud, but it requires a patient and attentive audience. But the full-color, full-page illustrations make up for what may be lost in translation in the text. Personally, I loved it, and I think some students appreciated it as well.

However, most students were instead fans of Waynetta and the Cornstalk: A Texas Fairy Tale by Helen Ketteman and illustrated by Diane Greenseid. Perhaps it was the silly accent I used (native Texans would most certainly be appalled by it) or the bright, vibrant illustrations, or the cowgirl feel to the story, but I definitely saw a difference in engagement with the book - students loved this one. In this version, Waynetta must sell the last longhorn in order save the family ranch, meeting a man along the way who trades her some magic corn, hence the cornstalk. Instead of a hen that lays golden eggs like in Jack's story, Waynetta finds in the giant's possession a cow who produces (or excretes, rather) golden cowpats. We also have a magic lasso as well as a magic bucket, whose uses are better suited to the setting of this story. What I most loved about reading this book was the natural comparisons that students made to Jack's story which we read the week before. Yep, it was Venn diagram time.

Honestly, I could have read Jack and the Beanstalk stories to third grade for weeks on end. But I stopped there because they get a little antsy after hearing the same story multiple times. For the next two weeks, we worked on a readers' theatre of the story, adapted by Lisa Blau. I enjoyed this script because it has eight parts, which meant that I could have two groups of students in each class and every student would have a speaking part. Overall, they did a great job, even though we could have used more time and probably a little more direction from me. Thirty minutes is just not enough time for readers' theatre, in my opinion.

So, that's all the Jack that my students got to see. But I have to tell you that I read many more versions of this tale, some of which I'm sure I'll forget to name.

Jack and the Beanstalk by Richard Walker
my thoughts via Goodreads:
This version intrigues me because of its jewel-toned color palette and Tim Burton-esque (think Nightmare Before Christmas) illustrations - so different from the typical greens and browns and realistically drawn scenes in most Jack books. But the story is chopped up - Jack only visits the giant once, with the goose and the wife following him back down the beanstalk and the giant soaring into space.

Jack and the Beanstalk by John Cech
my thoughts via Goodreads:
These watercolor illustrations make me smile, they're so vivid! For a contemporary take on an old tale, this one might be my favorite. I appreciate the repetitious Fee Fi Fo Fum rhyme of the giant's, and the three trips Jack takes up the beanstalk. In the end, the giant's wife comes down the beanstalk with Jack, they cut the stalk down and feed it to the cows, and the giant is still stuck up in the clouds (the only sore point for me - I wish the giant was killed). While Jack still has a few magic beans left in his pocket...
Some others that I just didn't feel like delving into, but that I know students also enjoy...

Kate and the Beanstalk by Mary Pope Osbourne

First grade girls love this one. The gender switch is obvious, but apparently the rest of the story is pretty close to the original. Not that I would know because I have not read it. It's always checked out!




Paco and the Giant Chile Plant by Keith Polette
Set in the Southwest, this Jack tale is told in both English and Spanish, and boy, does it have a lot of flavor! It reminds me of The Runaway Tortilla in its infusion of Latin culture to a traditionally American tale.


Jack and the Beanstalk: The Graphic Novel by Blake Hoena
I love the Graphic Spin series by Stone Arch Books. They're kind of like easy readers but in a graphic format, which really appeals to kids. I haven't read this one, but I am sure glad it exists.


Okay, do you blame me for saving Calamity Jack by Shannon and Dean Hale for last? I just don't know what to say about it. It defies everything I think about graphic novels. Even though I read and like them, I still have preconceived notions of what they should be or what they normally are, and this one just doesn't fit - in a good way. Perhaps it's just because I don't read too many original graphic novels, meaning quite literally, original novels in a graphic format. The story is so creative and clever - oh, how I was laughing aloud! And I can't, no, I won't describe it for you because it's not so much about the story but more about the full experience of taking in the characters, the setting, the gorgeous illustrations by Nathan Hale, and also, the ridiculous story. Giant, man-eating ants? Yes, it's ridiculous. But Jack's original story is interspersed throughout this fantastic creation - you definitely have to search a bit to uncover it though. My students loved Rapunzel's Revenge, so I'm wondering how they'll respond to Jack's story.

Okay, that's enough of Jack and the Beanstalk for one day. Unless you have a favorite I haven't mentioned to share. Please do share!

Natalie

4 comments:

Jana said...

Search on You Tube for Fractured Fairy Tales (they used to be shown during the Rocky & Bullwinkle Show in the 80's). There are two fun different versions of Jack that my students have LOVED!

celi.a said...

Well, it's more grown up (and I haven't gotten my hands on it yet), but there's a Jack story out now called The World Above by Cameron Dokey. And I'm pretty sure there was an awesome Jack short story in the anthology Troll's-Eye View. That one's all ages appropriate.

Nice round-up! I had no idea there were so many interpretations of the story. AND, they all look beautifully illustrated, too!

Nymeth said...

I didn't know there was a E. Nesbit retelling! Also, I love the sound of those graphic novels. And the reader's theatre sounds wonderful!

NatalieSap said...

Jana - These Fractured Fairy Tales cartoons are excellent! I'm definitely using them with students next year - thanks! :)

celi.a - Ooh, The World Above is in the Once Upon a Time series, which I've been meaning to check out. Lots of great retold fairy tales.

Nymeth - Oh, how I love the E. Nesbit retelling! Go find it and enjoy. :)

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