Friday 30 May 2014

ReadItDaddy's Book of the Week - Week Ending 30th May 2014 - "Jack and the Baked Beanstalk" by Colin Stimpson (Templar Publishing)

Jack and the Baked Beanstalk

Written and Illustrated by
Colin Stimpson

Published by Templar Publishing

We've had our eye on this book for a long time. Charlotte, because "Jack and the Beanstalk" is one of her favourite fairy stories, and she can't resist re-tellings of this classic tale. Me, because I'm completely in love with the warm fuzzy 40s/50s Americana type of artwork that Colin Stimpson and quite a few other children's illustrators are so expert at working into brilliant children's books.

The story opens with Jack and his mum running a successful snack van in the busy heart of a huge sprawling metropolis. People come from miles around to sample their delicious burgers, fantastic fries and damned fine coffee. But changes are afoot, the city is undergoing huge growth and soon a flyover is planned - that will mean folk will bypass Jack and his mum's snack van completely.

For a while things aren't too bad as the builders and construction crews bring regular business in until the flyover is complete. But then, once it's done, no one comes around any more - and Jack and his mum get down to their last few pennies.

Mum gives Jack the money and tells him to go and pick up some coffee and bread, after all people might still want to stop by for a breakfast or something. But a mysterious old man convinces Jack that he'd be better off spending his money on a magical can of baked beans instead.

Jack knows the classic fairy story just as you do, and when he gets home he's disappointed to find that mum has no faith in the old legends, and throws the tin of baked beans out of the window (where it bursts, scattering juicy beans all over the place).

What happens the next morning? You've guessed it - a giant baked beanstalk springs up, and not only is it covered in a gorgeous crop of the best beans Jack has ever tasted, the beanstalk snakes up into the sky leading to...fortune and glory perhaps?

What Jack finds at the top of the beanstalk after a hearty beany breakfast, we'll leave for you to discover. There is a giant but he's not the sort of evil fellow who will grind your bones to make his bread. There is a hen that lays golden eggs, but instead of a harp you'll find something a bit more swinging.

OK no more spoilers. As I said at the top of this review we've been hoping we'd get a copy of this - but our library came up trumps instead and we've been wrapped up in this fantastic tale ever since. Colin has produced a brilliant version of the old story, updated with a kicking 40s / 50s vibe. The art is simply stunning (if there's one thing you can rest assured of with Templar, it's that they really do attract the best author-illustrators in the business) and I'm actually thankful that, for once, here's a book about baked beans that spares us all that parping and windy nonsense that usually accompany any kids book where the delectable tinned side order features heavily.

I'm now on a mission to track down anything else Colin Stimpson has done, and we'll be picking up our own copy of this book as soon as we can. It's utterly fantastic.

Charlotte's best bit: The world's biggest and tastiest looking omelette - so good in fact that you could almost live in it!

Daddy's Favourite bit: An utterly fantastic retelling of a classic tale, with some of the best artwork you'll ever see in a children's book. It's "bean" worth the wait :)