Friday, November 7, 2014

PPBF: Clever Jack Takes the Cake

Today's Perfect Picture Book Friday pick

Clever Jack Takes the Cake,
by Candace Fleming and G. Brian Karas

Clever Jack Takes the Cake
Written by Candace Fleming
Illustrated by G. Brian Karas
Schwartz & Wade, 2010
Grades 1-3, Reading Level AD600L
40 pp, 1384 words

Friendship, Folk Tale, Birthday

One summer morning long ago, a poor boy named Jack found an invitation slipped beneath his cottage door. It read:

His Majesty the King 
cordially invites 
all the children of the Realm
the Princess's Tenth Birthday 
tomorrow afternoon
in the Castle Courtyard

Lowly Jack is invited to the princess's birthday, but he has no present to bring. Selling his few possessions, resourceful Jack gathers the ingredients he needs to make the perfect birthday cake. On his way to the castle, poor Jack and his cake are menaced by an assortment of characters, from four-and-twenty blackbirds to a greedy troll. Disappointed Jack must eventually face the princess empty-handed. It will take all his cleverness to keep the party from being a total loss.

What I Love:
What can Candy write that we will not adore? Not much. Here is a new tale, traditionally told, which satisfies the ache for fairy tales in a refreshing way. The author twists in the familiar in this subtractive tale (the opposite of cumulative?), but she ends up with a story which is anything but ordinary: A story about resourcefulness and the charming ability children have to bear up under adversity and to build friendship in unlikely ways.

Brian proves he is a superlative illustrator with his deceptively simple art. He transports us to a time and place with the sparest of details. He captures the characters emotions with a flick of the pen. From Jack to the dancing bear, I just want to hug them all! Adorable, without being cutesy!

1. I hope you don't have to sell your possessions to cook up Paula Deen's Simply Delicious Strawberry Cake.
2. TeachingBooks lists some lesson plan ideas for this book on their site.
3. The sound quality on this you tube clip is poor, but this young man's performance of Clever Jack is almost as much fun as reading the book!
4. Jules interviews Candace about Clever Jack right after its initial publication, and an gives an overview of Brian's career on 7 Imp.
5. I recently learned about the Appalachian Jack Tales heritage from E Dulemba. Learn more about Jack in traditional folklore or read the Dance Among Thorns, the original Jack tale. Candy's book has a more European flavor, but it definitely carries on the Jack Tale tradition.
6. Color a traditional Jack and the Beanstalk coloring page from Super Coloring Pages.
7. Here's an  eclectic mix of Perfect Picture Books which would be fun to read together. Find them at your local library.

A resourceful heroine
Reviewed by Jennifer

Elizabeth O. Dulemba's
bilingual Jack Tale
Reviewed by Julie

Crazy folktale adaptations
Reviewed by Clarike

Another birthday story
Reviewed by Beth

A journey book
Reviewed by Miss Marple

Check out all the recommended titles for Perfect Picture Book Friday
for November 7, 2014, available on Susanna Leonard Hill's blog.


  1. This reminds me of the books I read as a child -- with a twist. Now I'm going to have to read it to figure out what he gave her. Have an idea. Great share.

    1. Thanks. I got to hear Candace talk about this book in person last Saturday, and immediately knew I wanted to share it with all of you! As for the ending, I'll give you a hint: Candace once said that she sees a part of herself in Jack.

  2. So nice to see a longer (warranted) story make it into a recent picture book!

    1. I agree. I was shocked when I saw the word count. It doesn't seem that long. There is not one unnecessary word in this manuscript.

  3. This sounds soooo cute! I'm am adding it to my Need to Read list!! The word count is really high and I'm looking forward to studying that part of it. Thanks for the review.

    1. I think it's a great example to study modern writing. And if you have a chance to hear Candace speak at a workshop, by all means, go! She is thorough, realistic, interesting, and insightful. What a treat!

  4. I came across this book the other day and put it on my want list. I like Mr Karas's artwork. It sounds like a scrumptious tale!! Thanks for sharing all the goodies!

    1. He does have an amazing, minimalist way of telling a story. I am looking forward to analyzing his compositions in more detail. Thanks.

  5. I too am a total fan of Karas! But this book is one of my all time favorites! Oh, and I love Many Moons, esp the one Simont illustrated.

    1. Actually, I should've added Many Moons to the list. Readers, find the review link here.

  6. this looks like such fun! And I love the premise.... but wait, did you say there's a bear in this book?


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