Andy Jones and Darka Erdelji have done it again. With Jack and the Green Man, their fifth collaboration in the Jack series, they have created another exuberant Newfoundland fairytale to delight young and not-so-young readers. They use the same successful recipe they used in the other Jack books: take a handful of traditional myths and oral tales, shake them up and reimagine them with Andy Jones’ comic and inventive genius, then add Erdelji’s mesmerizing, transformative illustrations. And you have a captivating new Jack tale that takes readers on a fairy-tale quest where magic animals, wacky spells, hairy giants and tricksy demigods lead Jack on a merry (and scary) dance.
It all starts when nothing will calm the screaming baby Jack but a pack of cards, prescribed by the local witch. In no time he’s a card shark and beats everyone he plays. But when the Green Man (a splendidly wicked version of the pagan figure) appears and beats Jack at cards, the only way Jack can save his life is to track him down and play him again. To find the location of the Green Man’s faraway home, Jack has to first mollify some long-living giants with dumplings, puddings and love ballads. Then he has to put a nasty eagle through a training program so it can fly him over the ocean to the Green Man’s lair. There he meets the Green Man’s Daughter Ann, whose magic is stronger than her father’s. She falls for Jack (of course!) and is quick to use her wits to help him outsmart his enemy and earn her hand in marriage. Beset with new challenges at every turn, Jack and Daughter Ann are hard pressed, but a trio of magical creatures, some singing puddings and a coat the colour of stars help them win the day.
Jack is a key figure in many legendary Newfoundland tales, and Andy Jones has given him new life in this entertaining series. Juicy bits of Newfoundland idiom (Jack’s head is “plimmed” with love ballads, and he and the giant are “drove cracked” by the grouchy eagle) and customs (a boil-up on the beach, mummers, a card tournament) are threaded through the books. Erdelji’s artwork draws you back again and again, revealing more beguiling details with each look. She breaks linear time by pulling different events into the magic circles of her large illustrations, and then provides a counterpoint to the story in her tiny sketches, which skitter from page to page.
Jones and Erdelji have crafted another classic in the best fairytale tradition, mixing old and new with a gleeful dose of Newfoundland charm. Highly recommended.