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Clever Jack takes the cake

by Candace Fleming


Reviews

Publishers Weekly
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

The creators of Muncha! Muncha! Muncha! celebrate storytelling with a sparkling specimen of that very thing. Too poor to buy a birthday gift for the princess, Jack decides to make her a cake. He trades for ingredients, giving a hen seed for two eggs and kissing a cow for a pail of milk, and tops his confection with the "most succulent strawberry in the land." Jack proudly sets off for the castle, but blackbirds, a troll, and a dancing bear devour parts of the cake. He remains upbeat, even when only the berry remains-to which the princess is allergic. When Jack explains to the royal (who's bored by the jewels she's received) what became of his present, she is delighted: "A story!... And an adventure story at that! What a fine gift." Karas's gouache and pencil illustrations have a folksy quality and match the understated emotions conjured in Fleming's prose. With muted tones and subtle textures, the pictures capture the tale's humor (the dancing bear wears both a fez and a sly expression as it does its "shuffle-shuffle-kick") and Jack's earnest nature. Ages 4-8. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

*Starred Review* Fleming and Karas, whose previous collaborations include Muncha! Muncha! Muncha! (2002), offer an original fairy tale that has the makings of a story-hour classic. Jack is thrilled when he receives an invitation to the princess' birthday party, but he's too poor to buy a present. Determined to make something instead, Jack trades his ax and quilt for flour and sugar, scrounges up more ingredients, and assembles a beautiful cake, topped with the reddest, juiciest strawberry in the land. Calamity strikes en route to the castle, though, and after run-ins with four-and-twenty blackbirds, a troll, a dark forest, and a dancing bear, Jack arrives at the party with only the magnificent strawberry, which a guard confiscates: the princess is allergic. After anxiously watching the bored birthday girl receive her presents ( Another tiara? How dull. ), Jack confesses that he has only an account of his day to offer. Luckily, the princess is delighted: A story! And an adventure story at that! What a fine gift! Fleming writes with rhythmic repetition and delicious word choices that lend themselves perfectly to dramatic narration, while Karas' gouache-and-pencil art expertly amplifies each scene's action and mood, and creates endearing characters in Jack and his new royal friend. Like Simms Taback's Caldecott Medal winner Joseph Had a Little Overcoat (1999), this standout picture book emphasizes resourcefulness and the power and pleasure of a well-told tale.--Engberg, Gillian Copyright 2010 Booklist


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