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Sunday, April 25, 2010

"Calamity Jack" by Shannon Hale & Dean Hale Illustrated by Nathan Hale (Reviewed by Cindy Hannikman)

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Author Introduction: Shannon Hale, Dean Hale, and Nathan Hale are most known for their graphic novel Repunzel's Revenge, a 2008 Cybil Award Winner for Middle Grade Graphic Novel. Repunzel's Revenge is a retelling of the fairy tale Repunzel only with a bit of a western style to it and Repunzel can really hold her own in a fight with her long braids.

Shannon Hale is also known for her Newbery Honor book, Princess Academy. Nathan Hale has illustrated various children's novels.

Overview: Jack is a bit of a criminal mastermind. He steals, he swindles people out of money, and he is a bit of a trickster. He justifies his actions in that they are being done for his mother who is trying to keep a business and roof over his head.

One evening while Jack is out doing his evil deeds he decides to try and take on a bigger target. A giant. Jack goes into the giants fortress and steals a golden egg. While all this is going on he drops a few magic beans that soon sprout up destroying half the town. As the beans were Jack's he becomes a wanted man throughout the city and he runs away in hopes that he can come back and start a new life some day for his mother.

Running away leads Jack to run into Repunzel (as told in Repunzel's Revenge) and soon Jack decides it is time to return home. Only what he discovers is that the town he left isn't the same and there are a few evil plots of their own brewing in the city.

Format: Calamity Jack is a YA/Middle Grade Graphic Novel that stands at 144 pages. It is a spin off retelling of Jack and the Beanstalk, but it's more Jack and the Beanstalk meets the Wild West. Although the beginning of this starts before Repunzel's Revenge, the second half is a "sequel" of sorts to Repunzel's Revenge.

Analysis: There was so much talk about Repunzel's Revenge, it was a nicely illustrated, beautifully told story. It was everything a graphic novel for children could be and more. It used the old fairy tale retelling but had a completely new spin that wasn't worn out. When Calamity Jack was announced I was very excited for a sequel of sorts as I loved the rough and tumbling Repunzel.

Calamity Jack has all the same qualities that Repunzel's Revenge did. Beautifully illustrated and a fairly unique retelling of a fairy tale. However, this story wasn't as new and as fun for myself and there are various reasons for this.

The characters. I didn't like Jack, although it is explained why he steals, and acts so obnoxious it didn't come across as anything that made me want to feel sorry for him or even like him. This is probably the main reason this graphic novel was just alright for myself. This whole story except for the last part revolved around Jack and it just didn't work out for me. There are a few new side kicks such as the little fairy and the giants but they were only in the novel occasionally and really weren't outstanding in any way.

Another area that seemed a bit off was the flow of the story. It just seemed as if events were thrown out there for major events sake. It didn't really connect or flow as nicely as it should have. There is non stop action in this graphic novel but it just seemed action after action with no connecting factors.

Although it might appear as if I didn't enjoy this graphic novel, I enjoyed it but compared to the amazing first novel it just couldn't compete. It's a great novel for those that enjoyed the first novel but it doesn't stand out from the first. For children they probably won't even notice the difference. For adults the illustrations and fast paced storyline will make it a quick read.


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