How would you go about updating the story of Jack and the Beanstalk? It's not as if kids go around taking cows to market these days. But for Ben Hatke the answer was obvious, send Jack to a flea market. Somewhere there in between the stand selling hot pretzels and lemonade and the booth with scarves woven from alpaca or llama hair, have a guy who has all sorts of weird items for sale. Among these items might be a box of slightly odd-looking seed packets. Voila! There you have your magic beans in a modern setting. Of course, you need to update the characters as well. This time around Jack's family includes a younger sister who never speaks and a mother who works multiple jobs to make ends meet. All we know about Jack's father is that he left when Jack was three. So, we have a source for magic seeds, a reason why mom is not home often to supervise Jack and Maddy (the sister), and a perfect opportunity for something unusual to happen.
Hatke has done an amazing job, as usual. The characters are believable (okay, maybe not the guy at the flea market, but then he is supposed to be odd). The modern suburban setting makes the results of the magic seeds all the more bizarre. There are laughs and gasps of fear. Everything comes together to pull us in as readers and have us disappointed when we reach the last page and realize that we have to wait for the next book.
A great read for anyone interested in fractured fairy tales or graphic novels, or simply fans of Ben Hatke's work. This is the start of what promises to be a series as popular as his Zita the Spacegirl saga.
I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.