Fearless Jack


"Back some time ago when folks still had to worry about giants and wild unicorns and such, there was an old woman and her son, Jack."

So begins this tall tale from the heart of Appalachia about Jack, a boy who goes out to seek his fortune (accompanied by his faithful, although somewhat cowardly, hound) and winds up face-to-face with some pretty ornery critters!

How Jack manages to overcome each varmint one by one — without even meaning to! — is...

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"Back some time ago when folks still had to worry about giants and wild unicorns and such, there was an old woman and her son, Jack."

So begins this tall tale from the heart of Appalachia about Jack, a boy who goes out to seek his fortune (accompanied by his faithful, although somewhat cowardly, hound) and winds up face-to-face with some pretty ornery critters!

How Jack manages to overcome each varmint one by one — without even meaning to! — is the heart of this funny, boisterous story from an award-winning artist.

In this Appalachian folktale, Jack wins fame and fortune after killing ten jellow jackets with one whack.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature
Jack's mother sends him out into the world to get a job. When he stops to eat his sorghum biscuit, some pesky yellow jackets begin to buzz around his sandwich. Jack hits them with his cap and is so proud of getting rid of so many that he writes across his cap, "Fearless Jack Killed Ten at a Whack." He walks into town where he is greeted by the sheriff who offers Jack a reward if he can get rid of the varmints terrorizing the town. Jack, of course, succeeds in getting rid of the three critters in rather unique ways and returns home with his reward. Johnson's folksy style is perfectly suited to the tall-tale humor of the text. His cartoon-style illustrations are full of movement, and he creates wonderful expressions on the human and animal faces. Johnson provides background about the origin of the Appalachian Jack tales. Those familiar with European tales will recognize this as a variant of "The Brave Little Tailor," which is sometimes called "Seven with One Blow." Johnson's ending leaves the reader with the impression that another Jack tale will be coming. I, for one, certainly look forward to it. 2001, Margaret K. McElderry Books/Simon & Schuster, $16.00. Ages 5 to 9. Reviewer: Sharon Salluzzo
School Library Journal
K-Gr 4-Much like the Grimms's tailor who kills "seven at one blow" in any number of retellings, Fearless Jack kills "ten at a whack." Yellow jackets, that is-that are helping themselves to his biscuit and sorghum. Jack (that rascal of beanstalk fame) and his mother are "down to nothing but a penny and a pot." So the lad sets out to find some work. With the message of his accomplishment painted on his hat, he comes to a town that has been victimized by any number of varmints. The skeptical sheriff offers him a big "ree-ward" for their capture. One at a time, through dumb luck, the wild boar, grizzly bear, and unicorn are trapped. Jack, by turns appearing frantic and fearless, collects increasing amounts of cash and is ready to return home when the sheriff mentions the giants on the other side of the mountain-. Johnson's retelling, inspired by Richard Chase's The Jack Tales (Houghton, 1943), is entertaining in word and picture. The Appalachian mountain dialect, which begs to be read aloud, provides a lot of flavor; the acrylic-on-canvas paintings convey perfectly the "rough around the edges" spirit of the tall tale. Closer inspection reveals the impressionistic layering of strokes and dabs of color, a style that infuses each scene with vitality and warmth. Some readers will want to find a message here; others will merely revel in the fun.-Wendy Lukehart, Harrisburg School District, PA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
In a whimsical retelling of "The Brave Little Tailor," young Jack paints "FEARLESS JACK KILLED TEN AT A WHACK" on his cap after doing for the yellowjackets feasting on his sorghum sandwich, then sets out to make his fortune. That fortune's not long in coming; cautiously offering to help a town beset by "varmints," Jack is attacked by, in turn, a "fee-rocious" wild boar, a humongous grizzly bear-and a foul-tempered, horribly bad-breathed, unicorn. Johnson (Bearhide and Crow, 2000, etc.) gives his tale a freely-drawn Appalachian setting, dressing his woolly-haired hero in rumpled country clothing and sending him scrambling from each encounter, sometimes no more than "a frog's hair" away from disaster. Thanks as much to luck as quick feet, Jack traps the varmints, and hasn't even pocketed the thousand dollars with which a grateful local sheriff has rewarded him when he hears tell of "that settlement of giants on t'other side of the mountain." Readers who haven't met Jack already will be pleased to make his acquaintance; those who are already fans will have new cause to admire his pluck and common sense. (foreword) (Picture book/folktale. 6-9)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781416968337
  • Publisher: Aladdin
  • Publication date: 11/28/2007
  • Pages: 32
  • Sales rank: 1,041,085
  • Age range: 4 - 8 Years
  • Product dimensions: 8.30 (w) x 10.80 (h) x 0.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Paul Brett Johnson grew up in the small town of Mousie, Kentucky, listening to stories about Jack, the boy-hero who stars in a series of Appalachian folk tales. In Fearless Jack, he has drawn upon this rich Appalachian heritage to bring the humor and energy of the Jack stories to life.

Paul Brett Johnson is a two-time recipient of the Kentucky Bluegrass Award and the creator of more than fifteen picture books, including The Cow Who Wouldn't Come Down, which was a School Library Journal Best Book, an American Bookseller Pick of the Lists, and one of the New York Public Library's "One Hundred Books for Reading and Sharing."

Paul lives in Lexington, Kentucky, where he is currently at work on his next Jack Tale.

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