In the past, I have not felt terribly drawn to writing book reviews. I’ve had more fun writing about my girl’s interaction with books and writing and the various adventures we’ve had growing as a family of readers. In the past few weeks, though, we have been loving the book, Clever Jack Takes the Cake. I learned about this book during a book lover’s dream day, a conference called What’s New in Children’s Literature presented by Dr. Peggy Sharp. While Dr. Sharp talked highly of this book, I haven’t seen it mentioned in many places. There hasn’t been too much buzz about it around the children’s lit world. And we love this book. For the sake of all the children out there who haven’t met Jack, I am going to walk away from my comfort zone and write a review of Clever Jack Takes the Cake.
Jack, a poor boy, is invited to the princess’ tenth birthday party. He sells all of his family’s goods to buy ingredients to bake the princess a cake. Along the way to the castle, he is tricked out of many parts of his cake. A troll takes one layer as payment for passage over his bridge, a fierce wind blows out the candles, four and twenty black birds eat the walnuts from the top and so on and so on. When Jack finally arrives at the castle, all he has left to give the princess is the story of cake and his travels to the castle. The princess, bored with all the usual gifts to royalty is thrilled as she states, ” ‘A story!’, she exclaimed. ‘And an adventure story at that! What a fine gift.'”
And she is right. Clever Jack is a beautifully written adventure story that children love for the silliness intertwined with danger and that grown ups love for the subtle moral of the wonder of a good story.