Cover image for A handful of beans : six fairy tales
A handful of beans : six fairy tales
Steig, Jeanne.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
[New York?] : Michael di Capua Books, 1998.
Physical Description:
142 pages : color illustrations ; 16 x 20 cm
Rumpelstiltskin -- Beauty and the beast -- Hansel and Gretel -- Little Red Riding Hood -- The frog prince -- Jack and the beanstalk.
Reading Level:
860 Lexile.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PZ8.S545 HA 1998 Juvenile Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
PZ8.S545 HA 1998 Juvenile Non-Fiction New Materials
PZ8.S545 HA 1998 Juvenile Non-Fiction Open Shelf

On Order



Six retold fairy tales, from Rumpelstiltskin and the Frog Prince to the stories of Hansel and Gretel and Little Red Riding Hood, are accompanied by lively and humorous illustrations.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Ages 4^-8. "When magic was more of an everyday matter. . . ." It's the sense that fairy tales happen to people like us that will enthrall young children (and those who read to them) in this collection of six favorite fairy tales retold by Jeanne Steig. Where large-size, gorgeously illustrated picture books, such as Paul O. Zelinsky's 1998 Caldecott-award-winner, Rapunzel, have the appeal of glorious romance, this small volume has a decidedly down-to-earth, informal tone. There is just one drawback: the fancy type is busy and intrusive, especially jarring with this kind of relaxed storytelling. These are not fractured fairytales--there is no messing with the stories in any way--but the telling is rhythmic, colloquial, and direct ("What are you bawling and squalling about?" Rumpelstiltskin asks the miller's daughter), and the occasional loose line-and-watercolor illustrations in William Steig's cartoon-style bring the dwarves, giants, witches, and princesses right into the kitchen. The elemental drama is always there (everyone will understand why Jack goes to bed "feeling hungry and angry and sorry and sad"). Sometimes it's scary (too hungry to sleep, Hansel and Gretel lie awake and hear their stepmother persuade their dad to abandon them in the forest). There are also sly moments of comedy (the father of the spoiled princess is only too pleased to give his consent to her marriage and immediate departure). Kids will enjoy the way the text often breaks into chanting rhymes, not only when the wicked giant threatens but also when the good live happily ever after ("Their troubles were ended / Life was splendid"). Still, the most memorable line is the king's threat to the girl who must spin straw into gold: "If you fail, you die." What a book to turn kids on to the power of story. --Hazel Rochman

Publisher's Weekly Review

"A long time ago, when magic was more of an everyday matter...." begins Jeanne Steig's version of "The Frog Prince," an opener that typifies her sly irony and lilting language in this hand-sized volume. She and husband William Steig, who previously collaborated on Alpha Beta Chowder, deliver droll retellings and puckish new art for six familiar tales. Though youngsters may wish there were more illustrations to break up the sometimes text-laden pages, they won't soon forget William Steig's interpretation of Rumpelstiltskin, a "bizarre little man with a pickle-shaped nose and a lumpish body," stomping in outrage when the Queen guesses his name, or the snoring giant clutching his gold coins as Jack attempts to lift a few for his trip down the beanstalk. The artist whimsically refashions the well-known cast, exaggerating their fatal flaws or winning attributes, while placing them in everyday settings. Jeanne Steig also keeps the stories immediately recognizable by traveling the traditional plot lines, but she refreshes each of them by wryly rewarding the virtuous and punishing the villainous with equal panache. For example, in "Beauty and the Beast," the friends of Beauty's two superficial sisters wickedly predict the outcome of the duo's move from elegant townhouse to small country cottage: "Let them prance through the fields/ In chiffon and high heels,/ Raising arrogant brows/ At the goggle-eyed cows!" Similarly pithy verse appears throughout these fairy tales (Little Red Riding Hood and Hansel and Gretel also put in an appearance), each of which concludes with a fitting rhymed couplet. A handful of tales certain to please adults as much as children. All ages. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

K-Gr 3-These witty and clever retellings of six favorite fairy tales ("Rumpelstiltskin," "Beauty and the Beast," "Hansel and Gretel," "Little Red Riding Hood," "The Frog Prince," and "Jack and the Beanstalk") smoothly incorporate new rhymes and language nuances, and embellish the flavor of the original stories. Though the book is attractively designed with an easy-to-hold size and shape (6" x 8" lengthwise), the format begets some flaws. Each story has four or five single-page illustrations, but they are not plentiful enough to break up the many double-page spreads of solid text. Bold capital letters at the beginning of each sentence attempt to lighten the text density. The colorful illustrations carry Steig's familiar style but more coarsely caricature the well-known characters. His figures are definitely not genteel and seem more like peasantish rogues. Overall, they have less sprightliness and charm than the retellings. Still, there is an irresistible appeal created by the book size and cunning wordsmithery.-Julie Cummins, New York Public Library (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.