Posted by: Erica Gillingham | May 10, 2012

Baked Beans Anyone?

Jack and the Baked Beanstalk

Colin Stimpson, Dorking: Templar Publishing, ISBN 978-1-84877-215-1, £12.99, 2012 (first edition), 32pp.

I admit it: I’ve become a sucker for first editions. It wasn’t really until I started researching and reviewing children’s books that the allure of first editions really set in, but Jack and the Baked Beanstalk is altogether even more magical than just any first edition. For starters, the cover glistens with gold. The picture doesn’t do it justice, but it really shines… Then, it’s a riff on a classic fairytale that features baked beans, with end papers of edge-to-edge beans! Who doesn’t love baked beans?!  (Ok, I acknowledge that there are probably a lot of you who don’t like baked beans, but if you’re a convert like me and my partner, well, there’s no going back on that kind of enthusiasm.)

Open the picture book and you are swept into a 1950s Americana-but-English version of Jack and the Beanstalk. Jack, his mum, and their dog Bella own Jack’s Fast Food, serving the locals from their long-since-brokedown caravan at the edge of a busy city. Times change though and the city council decides to build a flyover (an overpass, for those Americans reading) right over the cafe, taking all their customers away. Soon, Jack and his mum are down to their last pennies. Sent to the shop to buy milk and coffee beans, Jack comes home with a tin of magic baked beans instead–and the adventure begins the very next morning!

While this is author/illustrator Stimpson’s first picture book, he has worked as an art director and production designer in the film industry (insert names like Spielberg and Disney here) so his illustrations read very much like film stills. As if to emphasise this, two-thirds of the book’s illustrations are couched in double white borders, given them a photographic appearance. When the illustrations do take over the entire double page spread space, the effect is breathtaking in its emphasis.

As you might have guessed, this story ends a bit different than the fe-fi-fo-fum child chasing giant in tales of old. Instead, the reader meets a pinstripe suit-wearing giant with a penchant for cooking. But what happens to Jack, his mum, Bella and Jack’s Fast Food? Well, let’s just say that the issues of a flyover and money are replaced with good food and friendship…

Jack and the Baked Beanstalk is a delightful read for anyone who loves a new take on an old classic.


Photo by Erica Gillingham


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