Wednesday, October 13, 2010

REVIEW: Clever Jack Takes the Cake

Fleming, C. & Karas, G.B.  (2010).  Clever Jack Takes the Cake.  New York:  Random House.

Appetizer:  Jack, along with all the other children in the kingdom, has been invited to the princess's tenth birthday party.  Since he doesn't have any riches to offer as a gift, he decides to bake the princess a cake.  But on the way to the castle, Jack encounters some trouble.  So much trouble that he can't be certain he'll arrive with the cake in hand or even arrive at all.

At the beginning of the story, Jack goes through a very complicated process to bake a cake.  He has to gather all of the ingredients from many different sources and then do the actual cooking.  I got exhausted just reading about the process.  (Side note--Even despite my exhaustion, I was pretty excited to see a male character do all of the baking.  Cool points!)

Despite having read a pretty good review or two, I almost didn't read Clever Jack though.  I opened the books and discovered there were a lot of words to a page:

Words. And words.  And words.


I know that a person in her mid-twenties, who is a PhD candidate focusing on literature shouldn't look at a page in a picturebook like that and be freaked about by, what?  150-ish words?  But I was.

Either way, I didn't know if had the attention span for this.

So, I skipped ahead to the ending and discovered that one of the morals was "Yayz stories!" so I decided to tough it out and behave adult-ish and read all the words.

I was glad I did.  Clever Jack has an old-school, folklore-ish, Brothers Grimm-y feel, but without any of the blood, mutilation or death.

I didn't make the connection as I was reading either book, but now, thinking back, I'd totally do a book pair between Clever Jack and Lois Lowry's The Birthday Ball.  Both involve bored princesses who invite peasants to birthday parties, but from very different perspectives.

Both are good fun!

Dinner Conversation:

"One summer morning long ago, a poor boy named Jack found an invitation slipped beneath his cottage door.  It read:
His Majesty the King cordially invites all of the children of the realm to the Princess's Tenth Birthday Party tomorrow afternoon in the Castle Courtyard."

"The boy thought for a moment.  "Then I will make her something," he declared.  "I will make her a cake."
"From what?" asked his mother.  "From the dust in the cupboard?  From the dirt on the floor?"
"I have a better idea," said Jack."

"I'm taking this cake to the princess."
"Aw-caw-caw-caw-caw!" cackled the birds.
And as quickly as they had come, they were gone, taking with them the walnuts that spelled "Happy Birthday, Princess."

Tasty Rating:  !!!

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