Everyone knows the tale about the boy named Jack, who climbed up the beanstalk and encountered giants. And everyone knows, in the giant land of Groil that is, that iggly plop, or little people, and bimplestonks, or beanstalks, don't really exist. Julia Donaldson, British author of numerous fantasy stories for young children, most notably The Gruffalo, reunites these two worlds in the enchanting and adventurous The Giants and the Joneses.
An avid collector with a secret stash of beans, eight-year-old Jumbeelia throws one bean over the edge of the land, and comes back the next day to climb down the beanstalk, which has sprouted overnight. She returns to Groil with a sheep, lawnmower, clothesline and three iggly plop siblings Colette, Stephen and Poppy Jones.
Jumbeelia settles the children in her dollhouse, but like most eight-year-olds, the girl's attention is easily distracted, and the little Jones siblings are left to fend for themselves in an oversized environment. Their biggest obstacles are Jumbeelia's older brother, Zab, who takes devilish delight in pitting the humans against insects and spiders half their size, and Throg, the caretaker of the edgeland who is old enough to remember the truth behind the beanstalk tale. Colette, a collector herself, knowledgeable Stephen and spunky Poppy pool their resources to escape the giants, but in a manner much different than their predecessor, Jack.
This classic with a twist is made all the more appealing by Greg Swearingen's charming sketches and Donaldson's blend of English and Groilish. The author writes Groilish with a syntax identical to English, so young children will easily grasp the foreign language. She also concludes the book with a Groilish-English dictionary. Adults should not be surprised to hear young readers mimicking the phrases of this beely, woozly story. Angela Leeper is an iggly plop, educational consultant and freelance writer in Wake Forest, North Carolina.