By Donna Jo Napoli
Published by Delacorte Press
Copyright © 1999
Crazy Jack is a beautiful twist on the fairytale of “Jack and the Beanstalk”. The author provides the reader with the story behind the fairytale adding her own elements which bring the story to life. She gives this story more meaning with a bit of an adult upgrade, but she doesn’t sacrifice the beans for more meat. The book is richly textured and very enjoyable.
Jack and his family are farmers. They are hard working and kind, but Jacks father is a bit of a risk taker. When the family needs something that he can’t afford he goes to town to wrestle and make wagers to try and win those things. Often it works out well for Jacks father, but sometimes it costs him. With the drought causing financial hardship for all, Jack’s father makes another wager, but this time it costs him his fields and his livelihood.
One day Jack’s father climbs a treacherous cliff and is never seen again. Jack attempted to follow him but could not. As the years go by Jack grows into a good looking and hard working man. Every September around the anniversary of his father’s disappearance Jack is drawn to the cliff to attempt to find his father, but all he ends up doing is injuring himself and everyone begins to think that Jack is crazy. Even Flora, the girl who has loved him since childhood and whom he was to marry when he was of age, has decided that it would be an insecure life to marry a crazy man and has begun to accept another suitor.
Finally, as in the fairytale, when things are at their worst Jack sells his mother’s cow for a bag of magic beans and finds the giants castle. But what he takes from the castle and what he has when he gets home are two different things. They are not what he expected, but they are exactly what he needs to come to terms with his father’s disappearance and win Flora back.