The moment Mighty Jack, Ben Hatke's newest graphic novel for kids (First Second Sept 2016), arrived in our home, it was being read. Mighty Jack is a reimagining of the story of Jack and the Beanstalk, but this is only the first episode, and my boys and I all agreed that we had only one problem with it--it ended, and we wanted more of the story Right Now!
Jack's mom is working two jobs so that they can keep their house, which means Jack (reluctantly) has to spend his summer looking after his little sister Maddy, who seems to be on the autism spectrum. The magical part of the story starts with the two kids wandering through a flea market. A strange man offers them a box of strange seeds in exchange for the keys to their mom's car (a nice modern substitution for the cow!), and when Maddy, who doesn't talk, tells Jack to buy the seeds, he hands the keys over. And Maddy and Jack plant them, and they begin to grow....
And they are magic, and very very dangerous plants result- mud-slinging root vegetable critters, a giant snail, and more! Fortunately a new friend, Lily, comes to join in the fight; a homeschooled girl with excellent sword skills. But when Maddy's seriously injured (in the fight against the giant snail), Jack decides the garden has got to go, and sets it alight, and it burns just fine. But then Jack finds that both Lily and his sister still have seeds, and things get even worse, setting up more adventures to come (because after all the story of Jack and the Beanstalk doesn't all take place in the garden at home.....).
It is a fast, fast read, that goes down like an ice cold coke on a hot day. Lots of fizzy bubbles of picture and story, combining to make something truly magical. The magic (which includes a visiting dragon!) and the engaging illustrations aren't all Mighty Jack offers. It's a warm, heart-tugging story of a family struggling to get through, with the bonds of friendship and family holding things together. The expressive illustrations convey tons of feeling, and I look forward to paying more attention to them on my next re-readings of the book (I'm a graphic novel gulper, which means I have to go back several times to take the time to actually look at the pictures in detail.....)
Fans of Ben Hatke's previous books will be tremendously tickled to see familiar characters making cameo appearances (look for the girl from Little Robot shopping for parts and tools in the flea market, for instance). And readers new to Hatke's stories will almost certainly want to seek out his other books.
Fans of fairy tale retellings will also be tickled by this one, and to celebrate the release of Mighty Jack, First Second has organized a blog tour of fairy tale favorites.
the one's I've reviewed here). My own personal favorite fairy tale retelling is Robin McKinley's Beauty, which has everything a romantic young reader could want--lots of books, a castle, beautiful dresses, a lovely garden, and a romance that grows from a solid foundation of friendship. But for those who loved Might Jack, I'd recommend Ursula Vernon's fairy tale based stories about Harriet, a hamster princess who takes no prisoners.
These aren't graphic novels, but they are graphic heavy, and so appeal to the text reluctant reader in much the same way as a graphic novel does, and they are funny and cute as all get out! The first book, Harriet the Invincible, is a Sleeping Beauty reimagining, and in the second, Of Mice and Magic, Harriet tackles the mystery of the twelve dancing princesses. I recommend them almost as enthusiastically as I recommend Ben Hatke's books (which is saying a lot).
Be sure to check out the other stops on the tour:
Miss Print, 9/26
and thanks, First Second, for the review copy of Mighty Jack!