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Jack and the Beanstalk, An English Fairy Tale

Updated on February 17, 2020
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As a children's book illustrator, Denise has many things to say about the process, her struggles, and children's books on the market today.

J is for Jack and the Beanstalk from the children's book, The FairyTale Alphabet Book, Fairy Tales and Folk Tales from Around the World
J is for Jack and the Beanstalk from the children's book, The FairyTale Alphabet Book, Fairy Tales and Folk Tales from Around the World | Source

My Children’s Alphabet Book

If you have followed me, by now you may have noticed I created a children’s alphabet book using fairy tales for each letter of the alphabet. I could have concentrated on all the old favorites but I decided to make it a book with fairy tales and folk tales from all over the world. This particular one is an old familiar one for me, being an English fairy tale.

I like to gather photo references to work from before I begin sketching.
I like to gather photo references to work from before I begin sketching. | Source

Global Fairytales

When it hit me to be more global I had already created the pages for R is for Little Red Riding Hood and J is for Jack and the Beanstalk. The research for the global fairy tales and folk tales from all over the world certainly added to my work but in the end, it became very satisfying. This one is controversial in that Jack is a thief stealing from a giant but the underlying message was to take care of his mother.

“Fee-fi-fo-fum! I smell the blood of an English man. Be he alive, or be he dead, I’ll grind his bones to make my bread.”

— The Giant
Collage progress photo.  I seem to have lost the roughs and sketches.
Collage progress photo. I seem to have lost the roughs and sketches. | Source

Jack and the Beanstalk, An English Fairytale

Jack and his widowed mother were very poor and hungry. One day his mother sent Jack to the market with the family cow to sell for food. On the way, Jack met a bean dealer who gave Jack 5 beans in exchange for the family cow. When he came home without the cow or money, his mother became very angry. In her anger, she threw the beans out the window and send Jack to bed without dinner.

During the night the magic beans grew into a giant beanstalk reaching up into the clouds. Jack climbed the beanstalk and found an enormous castle in the clouds where a giant lived.

The giant smelled Jack and said, “Fee-fi-fo-fum! I smell the blood of an English man. Be he alive, or be he dead, I’ll grind his bones to make my bread.” The giant’s wife convinced him that he was mistaken and the giant went to sleep. While sleeping, Jack stole a bag of gold from the giant and returned home.

Jack climbed the beanstalk two times more and found many treasures to steal and brought them all to his mother. Finally, when he stole the harp that played by itself, the giant awakened hearing the harp playing and chased Jack down the beanstalk. Jack’s mother brought an ax for Jack and he cut the beanstalk down making the giant fall to his death.

Jack and his mother lived happily on the riches that Jack had stolen from the giant’s castle.

Progress photo, changes to come!
Progress photo, changes to come! | Source

Collage Illustrations

I didn’t want my book to be just one more “A is for Apple” alphabet book and since I love fairy tales, why not use them instead? After deciding that, I was told I should use my collage method instead of the usual watercolor illustrations that I had originally desired. The collage took much longer but in the end, it made for a very unique book.

I hope you enjoy my process here showing the start with thumbnail sketches, then value sketch, color composition and finally, the collage. I made my little Jack a more Hispanic coloring because I didn’t want the book to be one more all-white children’s book. That wouldn’t represent the world in reality, now would it?

Progress collage photo 3
Progress collage photo 3 | Source

“If you can’t change your fate, change your attitude.”

— Amy Tan

Published with Lulu

This fairy tale has been shortened to fit into my book along with all the other letters of the alphabet. If you would like to read the full version, you can Google the title and find several versions of Jack and the Beanstalk, from the traditional story to several variations that have turned up over the years.

My book, The FairyTale Alphabet Book, Fairy Tales and Folk Tales from Around the World, was self-published last year with Lulu.com because Amazon (Kindle Direct Publishing) refused to allow illustrations that spanned the central gutter of the page. They demanded at least a half-inch margin around the outside, which I could have done, and a half-inch margin through the center margin, which would destroy the look and cohesiveness of the double-page illustrations. I had to find a different publisher who would allow the illustrations the way I wanted them. KDP obviously does not understand illustrated children’s picture books.

Finished collage.  Finding just the right cuteness factor is problematic.
Finished collage. Finding just the right cuteness factor is problematic. | Source

Final Thoughts

I hope you like my story and my fairy tale alphabet book idea. I’d love to read your thoughts and ideas in the comments below.

working

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