Jack and the Beanstalk: Different Versions to Share with Kids

Table of contents for Jack and the Beanstalk

  1. Jack and the Beanstalk: Different Versions to Share with Kids

For the letter J we decided to learn about Jack and the Beanstalk. We had a lot of fun reading and comparing different versions of this story. We also extended the story by doing some reading and math activities. There are so many versions of Jack and the Beanstalk out there, and if you ask me, some of them are a bit scary for little ones. I thought I would share the versions that we read together.

I should share that Lovey is an extremely cautious child who startles easily and doesn’t forget anything, just ask the poor kid who jumped out of the bushes to surprise her on Halloween! Because of this I am very selective about the books I share with her. We try not to include too many dark or scary pictures, and many versions of Jack and the Beanstalk were excluded for this reason. If there are phrases or language in a book that I don’t think will sit well with her (or phrases I don’t want her to repeat to me one day!), then I will use some creative license and change them up a bit.

To introduce Jack and the Beanstalk to preschoolers, I would recommend a very simple, short version. This will be the foundation that they use to practice retelling activities and compare to other versions. I really like First Readers: Jack and the Beanstalk by Gaby Goldsack. It is very simple with illustrations that aren’t too frightening. Unfortunately, I borrowed it from a friend, and I don’t see one available on Amazon to show you a link. I think it is one she picked up from Michael’s. They have some great books at good prices, and she finds quite a few there.

Jack and the Beanstalk by Richard Walker is similar to the traditional story, but it includes a few twists that add a bit of humor and a little less suspense. In the end, the giant is catapulted into space where he remains. This was a fun change that the kids quickly contrasted to the original story.

Kate and the Beanstalk by Mary Pope Osborne is a version I almost didn’t read to the kids. It seemed a bit too long for preschoolers, and there were some parts that I didn’t want to read to them. But every time we retold the traditional story, the kids commented about how wrong it was for Jack to steal from the giant. So using a little creative license to eliminate some of the parts I thought were not appropriate for this age group, I read this version. Besides having a girl hero in this story, there is one other important twist. We learn that Kate is helping her mother by taking back the items the giant had stolen from her long ago.

Waynetta and the Cornstalk by Helen Ketteman was a fun version to read to the kids. Before reading we compared the settings of the stories, and discussed what the kids knew about living on a ranch. We also found Texas on the map. Magic beans and a beanstalk are replaced with magic corn and a large cornstalk, and at the top Waynetta finds a giant ranch instead of a castle.  At the end the kids loved that the giant and his wife lived on the ranch with Waynetta and her ma. There were a couple of phrases that I chose to replace in this story, because I didn’t want to hear “cowgirl brat” in our pretend play this week. But overall, I think it was a great addition to our Jack and the Beanstalk week.

Paco and the Giant Chile Plant by Keith Polette was another book we really enjoyed. It gave us another great opportunity to discuss and compare the setting of the stories. The kids were able to make some excellent connections between this story and the other versions we read. Here magic beans and a beantalk are replaced by chile seeds and a giant chile plant.  In this version, the giant is brought to tears after getting chile juice in his eyes, and everyone was surprised by what happened next. The giant shrinks back to his normal size, and Paco realizes it’s his own Papa!  We learn the story of how Papa became the giant, and the family is reunited again. We loved practicing some of the Spanish words embedded in the story, and I only had to rephrase a couple of sentences.

What versions of Jack and the Beanstalk are your favorite? I would love to have some more ideas for the next time we do Jack and the Beanstalk activities.

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Note: The book pictures above are included to give you a visual reference of the books, and they are affiliate links. If you love one of the books and purchase it through one of these links, I get a small compensation. Thank you for supporting this blog in that way.

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  1. I love your idea of comparing different versions of the same story! I pinned your post to my Literature-Based Activities board at http://pinterest.com/debchitwood/literature-based-activities/

    • Thanks so much! Comparing the stories is really encouraging the kids to listen closing to the details and think as we read. They get so excited when they find something that reminds them of another version.

  2. One of my favorite stories! Thanks for sharing all of these different versions at Mom’s Library.

  3. Fee fi fo fum! Thanks for all the suggestions. The only version we’ve read so far is the one included in Mary Engelbreit’s Nursery Tales. It’s a simplified, not too scary version, would work well for young children. We’ll have to look at some of the other options available. My daughter likes elaborate illustrations and is a little older so I’m interested in locating a book with Gennady Spirin’s illustrations or perhaps John Howe’s version as well.

    • Thank you for the Mary Englebreit suggestion. The book with Spirin’s illustrations wasn’t a good pick for my daughter. I have heard great things about Sprin’s illustrations, but I haven’t gotten my hands on a copy of it yet. I appreciate your ideas.

  4. These all look great! I like that they giant ends up in space in one! Thank you for sharing this post on Read.Explore.Learn.

  5. There is a brand new version called “Jack and the Baked Beanstalk” which I am dying to get my hands on.

    • Ooh! Thank you! I just looked it up, and I agree. It looks like it will be a great addition to our Jack and the Beanstalk stories. Thanks for sharing.

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