Cover image for Crazy Jack
Crazy Jack
Napoli, Donna Jo, 1948-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Delacorte Press, 1999.
Physical Description:
134 pages ; 22 cm
In this version of the traditional tale of the young boy who climbs a beanstalk, Jack searches for his father, falls in love with Flora, and learns the value of real treasure.
Reading Level:
460 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR MG 3.5 4.0 2476.

Reading Counts RC 6-8 5.7 9 Quiz: 21516 Guided reading level: NR.
Added Uniform Title:
Jack and the beanstalk. English.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
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Item Holds
X Young Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Once there was a boy named Jack who traded away a cow for a handful of beans. But Jack was no fool, he was haunted since the day his father climbed up into the clouds and vanished. When the beans provide a way for Jack to pursue his father, he enters the Giant's world, where he discovers the terrifying ends of greed and desire. In Donna Jo Napoli's transforming novel, Jack's search for his father yields not gold, but sustenance, love, and the means to build a life. From the Paperback edition.

Author Notes

Donna Jo Napoli was born on February 28, 1948. She received a B.A. in mathematics, an M.A. in Italian literature, and a Ph.D. in general and romance linguistics from Harvard University. She has taught on the university level since 1970, is widely published in scholarly journals, and has received numerous grants and fellowships in the area of linguistics.

In the area of linguistics, she has authored five books, co-authored six books, edited one book, and co-edited five books. She is also a published poet and co-editor of four volumes of poetry. Her first middle grade novel, Soccer Shock, was published in 1991. Her other novels include the Zel, Beast, The Wager, Lights on the Nile, Skin, Storm, Hidden, and Dark Shimmer. She is also the author of several picture books including Flamingo Dream, The Wishing Club: A Story About Fractions, Corkscrew Counts: A Story About Multiplication, The Crossing, A Single Pearl, and Hands and Hearts. She has received several awards including the New Jersey Reading Association's M. Jerry Weiss Book Award for The Prince of the Pond and the Golden Kite Award for Stones in Water.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 4

Booklist Review

Gr. 6^-9. Fairy tales rewritten for the young-adult market have come into vogue of late, but few are as successful as this version of "Jack and the Beanstalk." Jack is only nine when his father, who has wagered and lost nearly everything except the family cottage, disappears while climbing a cliff in search of the elusive pot of gold. Seven years pass, with Jack so haunted by his father's death that on each anniversary of it, he runs headlong into the precipice--earning himself the moniker of Crazy Jack. After the magic beans Jack plants at the base of the cliff grow, he is at last able to search for his father. Napoli depicts the giant and his wife in a very nontraditional way--the giant is a wife beater, and his spouse (who left her first husband for the promise of jewels) is not above using her seductive skills to attract Jack and distract her husband. Jack's treasures also behave differently than they did in the traditional story version: the hen lays regular eggs, although as many as one asks for; the pot of gold becomes a pot of stones that keeps replenishing itself; and the lyre must be played to be enjoyed. As his life improves, Jack comes to terms with his father's death and wins back his true love, Flora. This beautifully written novel offers something for everyone--romance, adventure, fantasy, a peek at the English countryside in the sixteenth century, and an appealing protagonist struggling to make sense of what's really important in life. --Kay Weisman

Publisher's Weekly Review

Revisiting Jack and the Beanstalk, Napoli (Spinners) makes the plot bleaker but the message inspirationalÄan uneasy mix that reduces rather than expands the impact of the familiar story. Jack is nine when his father gambles away the family farm and later accidentally steps off a cliff to his death. The narrative then skips ahead seven years. Jack batters himself unconscious in a yearly attempt to climb that same cliff; it is to his madness that his mother attributes his famous exchange of their cow for magic beans. As in Beneduce and Spirin's version (see their Jack and the Beanstalk, reviewed above), this giant is complicit in Jack's father's death, but there are a number of innovations. Jack hopes to win back the love of his childhood sweetheart, Flora, whose purity stands in sharp contrast to the woman in the giant's castle, here a lascivious sort who cares more for riches than for freedom. Much is made of following one's dreams: e.g., the fairy who gives Jack the magic beans urges him to stay true to his love of farming. The stolen treasures lose their luxury once Jack comes back to earthÄthe hen (no, not a goose) remains a prolific layer but of ordinary (not golden) eggs, the lyre becomes an instrument for Jack ("I play a freedom song for the woman of the castle"). It is no surprise when Flora leaves her materialistic suitor for Jack with his good values. Napoli has made an odd trade of her own, swapping the boundlessness of archetypal fantasy for a touch of piety. Ages 12-up. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Gr 7-9-Once again, Napoli offers an original story with a familiar folktale at its heart. This time it's "Jack and the Beanstalk" set in medieval England. Jack and his parents manage to scratch out a marginal living from their fields, until his father's sudden and mysterious death. As the years pass and life grows harder, the young man is tormented by questions about this death and by his seemingly impossible love for Flora, his childhood playmate. People begin to call him "Crazy Jack," a name that seems justified when he trades the family cow for a handful of beans. However, as readers will suspect, these are no ordinary beans and the tale of the giant and the beanstalk unfolds and expands into a coming-of-age story. The author skillfully contrasts the peasants' harsh lives with the overblown riches of the Giant's land in the clouds, where a seductive woman plies Jack with food and drink. Napoli's present-tense narrative gives immediacy, though use of the first person sometimes results in a choppy narrative flow. While some ambiguities remain, the conclusion of the story is a satisfying one and readers will enjoy meeting Jack and his beloved Flora.-Ruth S. Vose, San Francisco Public Library (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

School Library Journal Review

Gr 7-9-Jack's family endures a long drought and his father trades most of the family's assets for food. In desperation, Jack's father climbs a cliff looking for gold and disappears. Jack is nine years old, and his father's disappearance haunts him. People start calling him Crazy Jack. Seven years later, Jack trades the family's cow for some magic beans. The beanstalk climbs up the cliff where Jack's father disappeared. Jack narrowly escapes the giant three times. Each time the giant's seductive wife aids Jack. This audio version, skillfully narrated by Robert Ramirez, accurately follows Donna Jo Napoli's book (Delacorte Press, 1999). He uses a clear, distinct voice and reads at a steady pace. The aural quality of the tape is excellent and it is easy to follow the story. Napoli spends a great deal of time building the setting and developing characters. The giant is a wife beater and Jack has amorous intentions for his neighbor, Flora. This audiobook will appeal to mature audiences.-Shelia Brown, McKinley Elementary School, St. Louis, MO (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.