Jim and the Beanstalk by Raymond Briggs

Fractured fairy tales are some of our favourite stories, especially since these are usually wittier than the originals. And, having read six versions of Jack and the Beanstalk — three of which are classic retellings — our hands-down favourite is this brilliant sequel to the classic fairy tale, conceived by Raymond Briggs in 1970(!), way before such stories became hip or common.

Set in the present day, the young protagonist Jim wakes up to find an enormously tall plant growing outside his window and proceeds to climb up to investigate. As expected, Jim discovers a castle in the clouds, but unlike Jack, what he finds inside is a somewhat depressed old giant who has literally lost his bite: he’s toothless, bald and has poor eyesight.

As it turns out, he’s the son of that OTHER giant who was robbed by Jack. So if you’ve always been on the side of the giant, you’ll love the way that the author has painted him in a sympathetic light here, as well as the altruistic way in which Jim helps the giant’s son to regain his zest for life and, ahem, appetite for fried-boy sandwiches!

Perfectly complementing the heartwarming story are Briggs’s evocative and humorous illustrations, which alternate between uncoloured black and white spreads and pleasantly muted watercolours.

In short, Jim and the Beanstalk is the perfect companion read to the classic fairy tale.

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