Kate and the Beanstalk

( 1 )


"I smell the blood of an Englishwoman. Be she alive or be she dead, I'll grind her bones to make my bread."
Mary Pope Osborne's funny, magical retelling of a favorite tale and Giselle Potter's enchanting illustrations feature Kate, a new and inspiring heroine for today's audience. Readers will cheer on this resorceful, gutsy girl as she outsmarts the famously greedy giant.

In this version of the classic tale, a girl climbs to the ...

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"I smell the blood of an Englishwoman. Be she alive or be she dead, I'll grind her bones to make my bread."
Mary Pope Osborne's funny, magical retelling of a favorite tale and Giselle Potter's enchanting illustrations feature Kate, a new and inspiring heroine for today's audience. Readers will cheer on this resorceful, gutsy girl as she outsmarts the famously greedy giant.

In this version of the classic tale, a girl climbs to the top of a giant beanstalk, where she uses her quick wits to outsmart a giant and make her and her mother's fortune.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Osborne tweaks tradition with this feminist rendition of a classic fairy tale. Here it's Kate instead of Jack who trades her family's cow for magic beans, and later climbs the beanstalk to find a kingdom in the clouds. Like Ann Beneduce's recent Jack and the Beanstalk, Osborne draws from a late-19th-century source for her retelling that incorporates a disguised fairy queen and a motivation for repeated visits to the giant--avenging Kate's father's death. Osborne's witty and spry reworking (she changes the giant's famous refrain to accommodate Kate's gender, "Fee, Fi, Fo, Fum'un,/ I smell the blood of an Englishwoman") shows Kate in a confident light ("I fear nothing when I'm doing right," the heroine tells the fairy queen). Through her cleverness and resourcefulness (and the unwitting help of the giant's wife), the heroine earns back all that the giant usurped from her family. Potter's (Gabriella's Song) airy gouache and watercolor illustrations sparkle with humor and exploit the perspectives offered by the towering beanstalk. With her Princess Leia-style hairdo, a few disguises and a can-do attitude, Kate comes across as a real action heroine, whether setting off determinedly with the family cow, nipping up the beanstalk or pedaling an eggbeater to assist the giantess in preparing breakfast. There's much to enjoy in this spunky picture book, which puts a fresh face on an old favorite. All ages. (Oct.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Publishers Weekly
Kate (instead of Jack) trades her family's cow for magic beans and climbs the beanstalk to find a kingdom in the clouds. PW's starred review said it "puts a fresh face on an old favorite." All ages. (Oct.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
Much to her mother's great consternation, Kate trades their cow for a few magic beans. Her mother tosses them out the window, and the beanstalk grows high into the sky. When Kate climbs the beanstalk, she meets an old woman who tells her that the castle she sees once belonged to a knight and his wife. Kate agrees to go to the castle and retrieve three precious treasures from the giant. The familiar old tale has been rewritten with a plucky, resourceful heroine and a lively, often humorous, pleasing-to-the-ear text. Potter's perspectives stretch the reader's imagination. The giant is truly a menacing figure. Effective use of line and the soft palette bring out the drama and the wonder of this cleverly retold tale. 2000, Atheneum, $16.00. Ages 5 up. Reviewer: Sharon Salluzzo
School Library Journal
PreS-Gr 4-This version, far more interesting than the more common one found on library shelves, owes much to Andrew Lang's The Red Fairy Book (1890), which is cited. An old woman meets Kate at the top of the beanstalk and discloses the "back story." The giant killed a knight and stole his castle while his wife and baby were away. "Perhaps you are the one to right the terrible wrongs," says the old woman, going on to inform Kate that she must return three treasures to the knight's widow. Following the familiar pattern, Kate pays three visits to the giant's castle. After she has succeeded in her quest, the Queen of the Fairies reveals that Kate is the knight's daughter and was being tested for her worthiness. While purists may regret the altered rhyme, "Fee, Fi, Fo, Fum'un, I smell the blood of an Englishwoman-" the moral anchor in this version works nicely with the switch in the main character's gender. Careful book design is evident in this appropriately oversized volume. The dizzying perspectives seen from the beanstalk are exaggerated by text that becomes bigger and bolder with Kate's ascent and descent. The language, while accessible, has a fairy-tale formality, but there is lots of ironic humor in Potter's flat, na f drawings. The avaricious giant is uniquely tidy with slicked-down hair and a carefully waxed mustache, and Kate rides the eggbeater like a bicycle as she helps the giantess make breakfast. One of the most lasting and popular of all fairytales, this retelling will make a popular addition to all collections.-Kate McClelland, Perrot Memorial Library, Old Greenwich, CT Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
In Kate and the Beanstalk, which was written by Mary Pope Osborne and ilustrated with gorgeous, folk-arty watercolors by Giselle Potter, our heroine is reclaiming treasures that the Giant snatched from her family once upon a time.
Kirkus Reviews
Osborne is not only the author of the wildly popular Magic Tree House series, but also a wellrespected reteller of myths and folk tales (American Tall Tales, 1991, etc.). In this fairytale retelling, Osborne adds to the growing number of traditional tales flavored with a twist in perspective or characters. The magic beans, skyhigh beanstalk, and fearsome giant are all present, but lazy Jack has been replaced by brave and resourceful Kate, who lives with her mother in desperate poverty. When Kate climbs the beanstalk, she retrieves the magical hen, golden coins, and talking harp, which she learns should rightfully belong to a knight's deserving widow and child (guess who?), along with the giant's castle in the clouds. Kate follows the traditional plotline of outwitting the giant and then chopping down the beanstalk, with the gruesome giant landing dead at her feet. In a proper fairytale coincidence, it's the very same giant who killed Kate's father, the brave knight who originally owned all the magical treasures. Potter (The GoodnesstoHonest Truth, 1999, etc.) has created flat, stylish paintings that manage to be both fresh and original and yet convey the atmosphere of a traditional European folk tale. The book's attractive oversized design includes many doublepage spreads, clever integration of text within lots of illustrations, and a delightful title page with the information incorporated into leaves sprouting off the beanstalk. Magical. (source note) (Picture book. 49)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780689825507
  • Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
  • Publication date: 10/28/2000
  • Edition description: 1 ED
  • Pages: 40
  • Sales rank: 1,460,627
  • Age range: 4 - 8 Years
  • Lexile: AD440L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 8.80 (w) x 12.10 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Mary Pope Osborne

Mary Pope Osborne is the award-winning author of many distinguished books for children and young adults, including the bestselling Magic Treehouse series; Favorite Medieval Tales, illustrated by Troy Howell; American Tall Tales, illustrated by Michael McCurdy; Rocking Horse Christmas, illustrated by Ned Bittinger; and Adaline Falling Star. The former president of the Author's Guild, she lives in New York City with her husband, Will.

Giselle Potter is the author and illustrator of The Year I Didn't Go to School, which is based upon her travels around Italy with her family's theater troupe at age seven. She is also the illustrator of The Brave Little Seamstress and Kate and the Beanstalk, both by Mary Pope Osborne, The Honest-to-Goodness Truth by Patricia C. McKissack, and Gabriella's Song by Candace Fleming. Ms. Potter lives in Rosendale, New York.


Ever since 1992, Mary Pope Osborne has been thrilling kids everywhere with her delightfully exciting Magic Tree House series. The globetrotting escapades of time travelers Jack and Annie are brimming with adventure and magic (not to mention some subtly placed lessons on history and geography). With a life like Osborne's, it's only natural that she would be capable of bringing such wondrous stories to life.

Osborne was brought up in a military family, and her parents' work led to a lifestyle marked by constant change. "By the time I was 15," she says on randomhouse.com, "I had lived in Oklahoma, Austria, Florida, and four different army posts in Virginia and North Carolina." While many kids would probably feel disoriented by such constant change, Osborne wouldn't have had it any other way. "Moving was never traumatic for me, but staying in one place was. When my dad finally retired to a small town in North Carolina, I nearly went crazy with boredom. I craved the adventure and changing scenery of our military life."

And adventure is exactly what Osborne got! After college, she embarked on a series of daring treks across the globe that would surely give Jack and Annie a run for their money. "For a while I camped in a cave on the island of Crete," she said. "Then I joined up with a small band of European young people heading to 'The East.' We traveled through 11 Asian countries and nearly lost our lives, first in an earthquake in northern Afghanistan and then in a riot in Kabul."

Following an illness she contracted in Katmandu, Osborne returned home to the U.S. trying her hand at a vast variety of jobs: window dresser, medical assistant, Russian travel consultant, waitress, bartender, and an assistant editor at a children's magazine. Although Osborne had unconsciously moved closer toward her ultimate career, she says that her first attempts at writing seemed to come without warning. "One day, out of the blue, I began writing a story about an 11-year-old girl in the South," she recalls. "The girl was a lot like me, and many of the incidents in the story were similar to happenings in my childhood...it became a young adult novel called Run, Run Fast as You Can. Finally, I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up."

She sure did! Since then, Osborne has penned a slew of stories, including picture books, chapter books, middle-grade biographies, and young adult novels; but she is indisputably best known for her wonderful Magic Tree House books, a happy hodge-podge of history and mystery with a time travel theme kids find irresistible. No doubt inspired by Osborne's own highly adventurous life, these exiting expeditions have attracted droves of children and pleased educators by combining compulsively readable storytelling with useful facts about geography and history.

As was written of the series in Children's Literature, "Mary Pope Osborne provides nicely paced excitement for young readers, and there's just enough information mixed in so that children will take away some historical fact along with a sense of accomplishment at having completed a chapter book." As much as Osborne has certainly pleased her readers (not to mention their parents and teachers), perhaps no one is quite as pleased as she. "I'm one of those very lucky people who absolutely loves what they do for a living," she explained. "There is no career better suited to my eccentricities, strengths, and passions than that of a children's book author."

Good To Know

A few fascinating outtakes from our interview with Osborne:

"One of the most defining experiences of my life was traveling overland in an old van through the Middle East and Asia in the early 1970's. One day, when a small group of us were camped in a remote part of northern Afghanistan, we saw a woman riding horseback over the sloping plain. Her long brown hair floated on the wind and she wore a bright gypsy-style dress. When she got closer, I realized she was one of my roommates from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill! Though I didn't even know she'd left the U.S.—and she didn't know I was in Afghanistan, we weren't that surprised to come upon each other. That says a lot about the times we were living in then."

"After 26 years of living in New York City, my husband Will and I now spend most of our time in Northwestern Connecticut, living in a house that overlooks a lake. We kayak and hike with our two Norfolk terriers, Joey and Mr. Bezo. Will's learning Italian, and I've been working with a tutor for two years trying to understand Dante's Divine Comedy. One of my biggest hobbies is reading philosophy and theology. We spend lots of time, of course, on our work. After writing three shows for the Morehead Planetarium in North Carolina, Will's writing a musical based on the Magic Tree House series. I'm writing book # 38 in the series. I also spend a lot of time with my sister Natalie Pope Boyce who works on the Magic Tree House Research Guides. Natalie and our nephews and some of our best friends live nearby in the Berkshires Hills of Massachusetts, so we're up there a lot, too. My only complaint is there is not enough time to do all I want to do. For instance, I'd love to take drawing classes and I'd love to paint the lake we're living on. And I'd love to bird watch and become a better cook and learn about classical music. Maybe sometime in the future...."

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    1. Hometown:
      Goshen, Connecticut
    1. Date of Birth:
      May 20, 1949
    2. Place of Birth:
      Fort Sill, Oklahoma
    1. Education:
      B.A., University of North Carolina
    2. Website:

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