Tag Archives: fears

PPBF – Fearsome Giant, Fearless Child: A Worldwide Jack and the Beanstalk Story


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:

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!

PPBF – The Darkest Dark

As nights become longer and Halloween looms, my thoughts turn to things-that-go-bump in the night. Who can say that they’ve never been afraid of the dark? Whether down in a cobweb-covered basement, along a deserted sidewalk, or even in your own bedroom (true confession: to this day, I can’t sleep with a closet door open), I think it’s safe to say that everyone, at some point in her or his life, has been afraid of the dark.  Which is why I’ve chosen to feature Today’s Perfect Picture Book:


9780316394727_p0_v1_s192x300Title: The Darkest Dark

Written By: Chris Hadfield & Kate Fillion

Illustrated By: The Fan Brothers

Publisher/date:  Little Brown and Company/2016

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: darkness, fears, dreams, space exploration, history, first steps on the moon

Opening: “Chris was an astronaut. An important and very busy astronaut. When it was time to take a bath, he told his mother, “I’d love to, but I’m saving the planet from aliens.”

Brief Synopsis: Based on a true story, astronaut Chris Hadfield shares incidents from his childhood when he was afraid of the dark, and how he overcame that fear to realize his dream of becoming an astronaut.

Links to Resources:

  • Learn more about Apollo 11 and Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the moon;
  • Ask an adult to share recollections of that first moon walk, or another historical event

Why I Like this Book:

I well remember Apollo 11 and those first steps on the moon (am I dating myself?). In an era when many of us worry about children watching newscasts, and in an era when we often view news instantaneously, alone on individual phones, tablets or computer screens, I loved reliving the moonwalk and experiencing it through the eyes of a space-loving child surrounded by family and friends huddled in front of one black and white television. And while I’ve never dreamed about becoming an astronaut, I love books that show kids how someone can achieve his or her dreams when they overcome fear or other obstacles.

With their blue-gray, moody palette, the Fan Brothers are the perfect choice to illustrate this story. The illustrations combine fantasy, including the dark-loving aliens of Chris’ imagination, and more realistic, almost photographic, images. Befitting a book about darkness, the palette is understandably dark. As befitting a book about an historical occurrence, the illustrations at times are granular, much like the 1960s television images of the first steps on the moon.

A Note about Craft:

Chris Hadfield is a real-life astronaut who has teamed with collaborator Kate Fillion to highlight a problem of his childhood, fear of the dark, and the incident/realization that helped him overcome his fear. The story follows a typical arc: MC wants something, overcomes a problem, and changes. In order, The Darkest Dark presents Chris’ dream, to become an astronaut (see Opening, above, which shows young Chris playing at being an astronaut), explores his fear of the dark and the problems it causes, and offers the solution via the incident that changed everything for him, in this case one of the most momentous events in history. By focusing on this one childhood weakness and showing how he overcame it, Chris offers a way for children to think about overcoming their own fears and realizing their dreams. I think this broadens the scope, and market, of the book beyond the particulars of an astronaut and space, to encompass all dreaming children who overcome fear to realize their dreams.

This Perfect Picture Book entry will be added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Books list.