The bridge between chapter books and novels is as important as the one that takes new readers from picture books to chapter books. It would be difficult to find a better traveling companion for that journey than Tom Trueheart. In The Secret History of Tom Trueheart, Ian Beck collects the most popular fairy tales Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Jack and the Beanstalk, to name a few and turns them on their respective heads to create a stirring adventure. The hero is an undersized 12-year-old who is summoned to rescue his big brothers from the Land of Stories. His family is the very last of the adventuring families the only ones destined to finish the stories dreamed up by the Story Bureau. One of the story-makers, known as Brother J. Ormestone, devises a plan to be rid of the Trueheart clan so that he can finish the stories himself as he sees fit. So young Tom's brothers whose names are all variations on Jack set off on adventures not knowing that the evil Ormestone is determined that their stories will never be finished. The Master of the Story Bureau, however, gets wind of the plan and dispatches young Tom on a quest to rescue his brothers and save the stories from the machinations of his evil subordinate. Tom traces his brothers through the stories and finds a variety of damsels in distress at having their princes snatched from them just as a happy ending seemed certain. Along the way, Tom learns about courage, friendship and cunning, and the happy endings are all the jollier for the delay. Ian Beck is best known as a picture-book illustrator and his whimsically clever silhouettes give the story added charm. In his first novel, Beck proves himself adept at portraying fairy tales in a new light that young readers will find bewitching.
Ellen Myrick always enjoys a good Jack-tale, especially considering that she named her own son Jackson.