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Jack the Giant Killer

Review

Jack the Giant Killer

retold and illustrated by Richard Doyle

This book, a title in the Everyman's Library Children's Classics series, is a retelling of an old, old story. Richard Doyle was 18 in 1842. He copied the text of this book from a fairy tale that was already hundreds of years old, and he illustrated it with his own drawings, turning it into a picture book. He did this for his own amusement; he did not try to publish it. But five years after he died, his family published it, in 1888.

The book is chock-full of drawings. Full-page and half-page pictures, plus small paintings within the sentences themselves, can be found throughout. And the text itself is fun to read, especially from our modern-day viewpoint and what we've learned to expect from stories. For example, you won't find as much conflict and drama as you're used to. Jack decides to kill a giant, he goes out, and he kills the giant. He never loses, and the giants don't really put up much of a fight. But the story is still interesting because Jack defeats many different kinds of giants --- one-headed, two-headed, and even three-headed ones. And slaying isn't Jack's only claim to fame. Sometimes he doesn't kill the monsters, he just outsmarts them.

The old-fashioned language of the story is fun to read, and some of the storyteller's phrasing might even make you laugh. Here is an example: "Now Jack, though only the son of a poor farmer living in Cornwall, was very clever, for he not only fought and wrestled with all the youths within twenty miles round but he beat them likewise. Can it be wondered at that under these circumstances he should be his father's hope and his mother's joy and that the neighbours should look upon him with the greatest respect?" We might not admire little boys who fight quite as much as they admired them hundreds of years ago, but for Jack's chosen occupation, it was a necessity and it brought him great renown.

You will love the pictures, the fast pace, and exciting exploits in Jack's story. King Arthur even shows up on the scene, fitting in perfectly in this fairy-tale world of pure-hearted knights and fair damsels, castles and moats, and magicians with their enchantments. Don't miss this classic.

Reviewed by Tamara Penny on August 8, 2000

Jack the Giant Killer
retold and illustrated by Richard Doyle

  • Publication Date: August 8, 2000
  • Hardcover: 96 pages
  • Publisher: Everyman's Library
  • ISBN-10: 0375410708
  • ISBN-13: 9780375410703