Reading/Interest Level: Young Adult
Author: P. W. Catanese
Destitute orphan, Nick, knows the legend of Jack and the Beanstalk. While infiltrating a fortress for a band of thieves, Nick sees evidence of Jack’s adventures, including the magic beans. Nick steals the beans to gain his own fortune. The beans sprout into the sky, latching onto a cloud island where three giants live: Gullinda, who protected Jack, and Gnasher and Basher, Gullinda's evil sons. Gnasher and Basher imprison their mother and force her to weave beanstalk ropes so they can invade Earth. Nick meets Gullinda and frees her. Finch, the leader of the thieves, forces Nick to steal the giants’ wealth. The brothers catch Nick and Finch, but Gullinda helps the two escape. Nick makes it down the beanstalk, but Finch and Basher fall to their deaths. Gnasher lowers himself with beanstalk rope, but once the beanstalk is severed from Earth he is left to float away with the island.
In Catanese’s re-released 2006 series, he uses Jack and the Beanstalk as the foundation for this first book. The original fairytale does not show any consequences for Jack’s illegal actions. Readers excuse Jack for stealing gold, betraying the giant’s wife, and killing the giant because Jack was saving his family. In Catanese’s novel, an older Jack admits greed, rather than providing for his family, fueled his behavior. Jack relies on Nick to resolve the whole giant mess because the consequences of Jack’s past decisions are too huge for him to resolve alone. Besides the underlying atonement theme, The Thief and the Beanstalk is also a suspenseful, action-packed adventure appropriate for ages thirteen and up.