Thursday, June 13, 2013

Throwback Thursday - Jack and the Beanstalk Take on Steampunk America

**Note: I used to keep a book-review-only blog called cj's bookshelf. I've decided to let that one go because I'd rather have content and upkeep over here on cj's notebook. However, I'd like to keep the reviews I posted on the book review blog (as amateur as some of them are - well, that could be said of some of my current writing as well, so never mind).  Over the course of the next few months, I'm going to repost them on this blog, the intent being that this will be a weekly thing called "Throwback Thursday" (very witty and original, I know).  Hope you all enjoy.**

**Originally posted on cj's bookshelf on July 17, 2011**

Title: Calamity Jack
Authors: Shannon and Dean Hale
Illustrator: Nathan Hale
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Publication Date: January 5, 2010
Reading Level: 12 and up

Synopsis: (from Goodreads) –

Jack thinks of himself as a criminal mastermind with an unfortunate amount of bad luck. A schemer, a trickster ...maybe even a thief? But, of course, he's not out for himself he's trying to take the burden off his hardworking mum's shoulders. She'd understand, right? He hopes she might even be proud. Then, one day, Jack chooses a target a little more ...'giant' than the usual, and as one little bean turns into a great big building-destroying beanstalk, his troubles really begin. But with help from Rapunzel and other eccentric friends, Jack just might out-swindle the evil giants and put his beloved city back in the hands of the people who live there ...whilst catapulting them and the reader into another fantastical adventure

My Review:

First time reviewing a graphic novel – hooray!

Shannon Hale is one of my favorite authors. I loved The Books of Bayern and Princess Academy, so I know she can write for the YA set. Her adult fare isn’t too shabby either – check out Austenland and The Actor and the Housewife for those prime examples. But I hadn’t yet read her graphic novels – which she co-wrote with her husband, Dean Hale. I found Calamity Jack at one of the libraries where I work, so I had to check it out.

Calamity Jack is actually a sequel to Rapunzel’s Revenge, sadly the library didn’t have a copy of the latter when I was there. Luckily, I could follow Calamity Jack fairly well without the backstory. From my short time working at the library, I have learned that the first book in a series is usually checked out and all you have to work with is the second, third and so on, so it’s nice that I could read this story and not worry that I’d missed too much by starting with the second book (but I will go back and get Rapunzel’s Revenge when it becomes available again).

This story is a retelling of Jack and the Beanstalk, with Jack and his mother living in a steampunk-ish city full of fairy tale creatures. It’s like Shrek meets Leviathan (which is also a very good book and highly recommended). All his life, Jack has been the “mastermind” of all kinds of pranks, shenanigans and low-brow thievery as he helps his widowed mother keep the family bakery afloat. But things go wrong when he grows a beanstalk and raids Blunderboar’s (the local corporate giant’s) mansion. When I say “corporate giant,” I mean it’s an actual giant that runs a corporation – like one of Rubeus Hagrid’s relatives. Jack later meets up with Rapunzel (who I gather he met in the previous installment of the series) and the pair team up to save the day!

This is a brilliant story, really. I mean, you have fairy tale creatures living in a place akin to late 19th century America (it’s never stated outright, but Jack and his mother are drawn as Native Americans) – complete with a jabberwocky named (interestingly enough) Mr. Jabbers. There’s plenty of humor (wait until you meet Prudence, Jack’s partner-in-crime pixie friend) and the artwork is fantastic – nods to Nathan Hale for his wonderful work.

Like I said, I picked this up because I’m a fan of Shannon Hale’s novels which by and large appeal to a young female audience, but this Hale-times-three team work pretty well together (though I don’t think Nathan is related to Shannon and Dean) and this story could appeal to both boys and girls. I haven’t heard if another project is in the works, but I would not be opposed to another graphic novel by these three. It wouldn’t even have to be in this universe – but I wouldn’t complain if it was.

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