Fantasy – Calamity Jack

Calamity Jack


Hale, Shannon and Hale, Dean. 2010. Illus. by Nathan Hale. CALAMITY JACK. New York: Bloomsbury. ISBN 9781599903736.

Plot Summary

Jack is a natural born schemer who one day takes on a larger target that involves a giant and a magic bean. When the resulting beanstalk destroys buildings Jack must leave his home of Shyport, but he is determined to return and make things right with his mother and his town. With the help of Rapunzel and her amazing braids, a pixie from his past, and a new friend with a penchant for inventions, Jack takes on the giant once and for all.

Critical Analysis

This high fantasy graphic novel will draw readers in with its likeable characters, engaging illustrations, and humorous plot twists. Shannon and Dean Hale’s tale uses Jack and the Beanstalk as its jumping off point and brings adventure and the backdrop of the Wild West to this delightful book.

Jack is Native American and sees himself as a “criminal mastermind with an unfortunate amount of bad luck.” Jack and his trusty pixie have mixed luck with their scheming ways until one day Jack decides to break into the giant Blunderboar’s penthouse, high above the town. Magic beans, a golden goose, and a wild growing beanstalk all play a part in Jack’s latest scheme that results in the destruction of his home and the need to escape, with the goose in tow.

Jack heads west, but is determined to return to Shyport to help his mother and rebuild his home. First he joins forces with Rapunzel, a character from the Hale’s first graphic novel, Rapunzel’s Revenge, who uses her powerful braids to fight off evildoers.

Upon returning to Shyport, Jack and Rapunzel try to come up with a plan to overthrow the evil Blunderboar and rescue Jack’s mother, who is being held in the penthouse. First they must fight off the ant people, outsmart the screaming brownies, and destroy myriad giants. Thankfully they get assistance from do-gooder Freddie who proclaims “I tell you, I will not be bullied, you bullying bullies, you! I will not.” With Freddie’s inventions, and help from Jack’s trusty pixie friend, Pru, they seem destined for success, but not without some twists and turns along the way.

Shannon and Dean Hale’s humorous and witty story line moves the book forward and readers will be eager to turn the pages to see what awaits Jack and his team next. When all their prospects look grim, Pru comments, “This is depressing. I need a cupcake.” But they need more than a cupcake to get out of this predicament and all seems lost when Blunderboar confronts our heroes with a twist on the classic phrase, “Fee. Fi. Fo, and oh let’s say FUM.”

The Hale’s words are beautifully matched with Nathan Hale’s action packed illustrations. He drew all the illustrations in his local library, which has a cameo drawing in the book. Hale’s detailed drawings portray frightening characters, like the evil looking, giant sized ant people with their beady eyes and scary pinchers. He uses color and close-ups to convey the mood throughout the story.

In the end good triumphs over the evil Blunderboar, order is restored to Shyport, and Jack even gets the girl. A delightful fantasy tale with wonderful new twists that is sure to entertain tween and teen readers.

Review Excerpts

PUBLISHERS WEEKLY: “Jack leads readers on adventure trekking through sewers and taking to the sky. The dynamic artwork fits well with Jack and Rapunzel’s quick tongues, as they flirt their way through numerous hair-raising situations.”

BOOKLIST: “Nathan Hale’s art gives it a steampunk twist, and the addition of fairy-tale creatures like giants and pixies is natural and convincing. Shannon and Dean Hale have done an excellent job stretching the bones of the traditional fable into a high-action coming-of-age story that will keep young teen readers excited and engaged.”


2011 YALSA Great Graphic Novel

School Library Journal Best Comic for Kids 2011

Nominated for a Cyblis Award

Junior Library Guild Selection


  • Read a version of Jack and the Beanstalk and compare and contrast what elements appear in this graphic novel version of the story.
  • Read Shannon and Dean Hale’s other graphic novel Rapunzel’s Revenge.
  • Language Arts Connection – have students write captions for what some of the characters are thinking in the book.
  • Language Arts Connection – have students choose another fairy tale as a starting point for their own fantasy graphic novel and write an outline for the story. Have them write and illustrate a scene from their original story.
  • Summary Exercise – Break the students into small groups and have each group summarize their section of the book. Then have the students share their summary in order of he book to make certain the right amounts of details are included.

Image from Barnes and Noble


About libraryloverleslie

I love libraries and books, most especially those for children and young adults. I’m a Children’s Librarian in the Pacific the dream!
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