Jack’s sister, Jill, plays the lead role in this version of the familiar tale. Jack is in bed, nursing his head after falling down the hill. The story is told in rhyme with allusions to various (mostly well-known) nursery rhymes dotted throughout for the reader to pick out. All the nursery rhymes alluded to are helpfully supplied, in full, at the end of the book. The beginning sets the scene superbly: ‘Jack climbed a hill with his sister Jill./ Jack fell down and now he’s ill./ There’s nothing to eat, they’re feeling sad./ If only the giant hadn’t swallowed their dad.’ So of course, it’s up to Jill to sell the cow and embark on the adventures that Jack would have been destined for had he not hurt his head. The rest of the story follows the course of events familiar to us, all told in rhyme.
It’s a clever idea, imaginatively illustrated (I particularly like Anstey’s depiction of the giant, a combination of pirate and clown) and is likely to have instant appeal. It’s a title you want to pick up and look at. Providing a translation for a story in rhyme must be quite a challenge – I always wonder how successfully it’s been achieved. (Available in 22 dual language editions.)