This past Tuesday, the United Nations marked World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development with a goal of bridging cultural gaps, bringing about greater understanding and tolerance. I thought, at first, to feature a book from a culture different than my own today. But from which other culture? I couldn’t decide. So when I saw today’s Perfect Picture Book highlighting aspects of many cultures from throughout the world, I was happy to discover that I didn’t need to choose just one.
Title: Fearsome Giant, Fearless Child: A Worldwide Jack and the Beanstalk Story
Written By: Paul Fleischman
Illustrated By: Julie Paschkis
Publisher/Date: Godwin Books, an imprint of Henry Holt and Company (Macmillan Publishing Group)/2019
Suitable for Ages: 4-8
Themes/Topics: fairy tale retelling, underdogs, multiculturalism, fears, folk art
It was scary, but I begged for that story. How the king adored his older children but could barely stand to look at his youngest son.
Brief Synopsis: Combining elements of tales from many different traditions, a fearless child confronts a fearsome foe.
Links to Resources:
- Explore the World and find out about the many countries featured in Fearsome Giant, Fearless Child or explore other countries you’ve visited or want to visit;
- Grow your own beanstalk or try these other kid-friendly gardening activities.
Why I Like this Book:
Similar to an earlier picture book by this author and illustrator duo, Glass Slipper, Gold Sandal , Fearsome Giant, Fearless Child is a composite version of a popular hero tale told by incorporating details from many versions told throughout the world. Unlike in the previous book in which Fleischman examined the many iterations of the Cinderella story, Fleischman here melds together many different stories that feature a child who confronts a larger-than-life nemesis and ends up victorious. Referencing Jack and the Beanstalk in the subtitle, Fleischman also includes references to thumb-sized heroes, youngest siblings, and other brave children who, with brains and bravery, defeat such giants as ogres, witches and even the devil.
Not only do I think that children will find it interesting to note the variations in these hero tales, but Paschkis’ colorfully-detailed folk art illustrations provide further insight into the culture of each region depicted. I think anyone seeking a comparative multicultural picture book or anyone who enjoys fairy tales (is there anyone who doesn’t?) will enjoy reading, and rereading Fearsome Giant, Fearless Child.
A Note about Craft:
As in Glass Slipper, Gold Sandal, Fleischman has not changed any of the original stories from which he draws, but through his storytelling, he has highlighted what is the same and what’s different across various cultures. He has, in effect, opened a window into the various cultures and historical eras that produced these many hero stories, and, I believe, he has achieved a composite story that will prompt discussion about what’s the same and what’s different in the many cultures highlighted.
This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Book list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!