Appalachian Folktale Picture Books: Jack Tales

Compiled by Tina L. Hanlon

Back to Folktale Bibliography Index and General Picture Book List

Notes:  Many titles below contain direct links to the Annotated Index of Tales by Title. Beginning in summer 2001, more details are being added to those annotations than to entries on this page. However, some entries below are based on folk songs or tales not grouped with others in the Annotated Index. The term folktale is used very broadly on these pages to include many kinds of folklore retellings or adaptations in books, recordings, dramas, and films. Other Jack Tales can be found on AppLit's pages on folktale collections, background resources, and audio and video retellings. A number of Jack Tale texts appear in the Fiction and Poems section of AppLit.

Some links on these pages are to author pages and related materials outside AppLit. Links for many of the people who created these picture books are also given in Background Resources on One Author, Illustrator, Storyteller, Dramatist, or Filmmaker. AppLit also contains many study guides and articles on Jack Tales and dramatizations by the Jack Tale Players. Carl Lindahl's excellent 1994 introduction to the tradition of British-American Jack reprinted at Jacks: The Name, The Tales, The American Traditions in

Some other Jack tales are listed in Folktale Resources Outside Appalachia.

Airich, Rinz. Fearless Jack. Kuala Lumpur: Dilto Book Centre, 2004. 16 pp. My English Stories series. "In this Appalachian folktale, Jack wins fame and fortune after killing ten jellow [sic] jackets with one whack." I haven't found any indication of whether this is an illustrated book.

Birdseye, Tom.  Look Out, Jack!  The Giant is Back!  Illus. Will Hillenbrand.  New York:  Holiday House, 2001.

Chase, Richard. Jack and the Three Sillies. Illus. Joshua Tolford. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1950. An Appalachian version of a classic tale about foolish behavior. Jack has a wife who learns that others are more foolish than he is. Exercise on Appalachian Language in Jack and the Three Sillies.

Chase, Richard.  Wicked John and the Devil.  Illus. Joshua Tolford. Boston:  Houghton Mifflin, 1951. Black and white and color illustrations depict the red devils outwitted by a blacksmith so mean that he is denied access to heaven and hell when he dies.  (See Woolridge, Wicked Jack below.) "Based on an oral version I first heard told by Mrs. Jenning L. Yowell of Albemarle County, Virginia" (Chase).

Compton, Joanne and Kenn. Jack the Giant Chaser:  An Appalachian Tale. New York:  Holiday House, 1993. Jack uses his wits to get rid of the giant up on Balsam Mountain. “Joanne Compton’s Jack and the Giant Chaser is one of the finest of the trickster Jack tales. Jack’s ingenuity and the Giant’s stupidity have undying appeal” (Roberta Herrin, "Southern Pot of Soup." Southern Exposure. Summer 1996, p. 61.)

Davis, Donald. Jack and the Animals:  An Appalachian Folktale. Illus. Kitty Harvill.  Little Rock: August House Little Folk, 1995. Similar to "The Bremen Town Musicians"; a mountain boy and five elderly animals find their fortune in a robbers' den. Also called "Jack and the Robbers" in Chase's Jack Tales  and R. Rex Stephenson's Jack Tales dramas. Page on storyteller/author Donald Davis.

Haley, Gail EJack and the Bean Tree. New York: Crown, 1986. N. pag. The giant's lavish mansion up in the magic bean tree contrasts with Jack's poor country home, but he manages to bring riches down to his Maw and escape the bloodthirsty giant.

Haley, Gail E. Jack and the Fire Dragon. New York: Crown, 1988. N. pag. Haley's colorful linocut illustrations show brave Jack rescuing three sisters from a giant mountain man who turns into a fierce dragon underground.

Hicks, Ray. The Jack Tales. As told to Lynn Salsi. Illus. Owen Smith. New York: Callaway, 2001. A tall, attractive picture book, sold with CD of oral tellings in an envelope attached to the end papers. Contains "Jack and the North-West Wind," "Jack and the Bean Tree," and "Jack and the Robbers."  Both full-page color illustrations and smaller black and white drawings are somewhat reminiscent of the style of Thomas Hart Benton. Includes glossary of mountain terms and background on Ray Hicks as North Carolina storyteller, a master of the native oral tradition. Hicks' oral tellings are not identical to the written text in every detail, inviting interesting comparison of oral and written versions of the same tale. An ALA Notable Children's Book for 2001. See also page on this book by a Louisiana State University Librarian.

Johnson, Paul Brett. Fearless Jack. New York: Margaret K. McElderry, 2001. N. pag. (Reader's theater script formerly available at Johnson's web site, but Johnson died in 2011.)

Johnson, Paul Brett. Jack Outwits the Giant. New York: Margaret McElderry, 2002. Jack plays tricks on a dumb two-headed giant. (Reader's theater script formerly available at Johnson's web site, as well as a script called "Jack and the Talking Mule Hide," but Johnson died in 2011.) This is a featured youth book in the Roanoke Valley Reads program in Fall 2013. Click here for details.

Pack, Linda Hager. A is for Appalachia! The Alphabet Book of Appalachian Heritage. Illus. Pat Banks. Prospect, KY: Harmony House Publishers, 2002. Rpt. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2009. The author, from Hamlin, WV, reprints two tales by Leonard Roberts : "The Devil's Big Toe" on the page "G is for ghost stories" (p. 16), and "Jack and the Bean Stalk" on the page "J is for the clever boy in the Jack Tales" (pp. 20-22). Pack stresses that "Jack was a country boy just like the children who loved hearing about him." The tales are from Sang Branch Settlers and Old Greasybeard (see Roberts in Appalachian Folktale Collections). Other pages describe traditional folkways, language, and customs. Watercolor illustrations are by an artist from Madison County, KY.

Phelan, Matt. The Storm in the Barn. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press, 2009. Although not exactly a picture book or an Appalachian Jack Tale, Phelan's first graphic novel has a protagonist named after Jack in Appalachian Jack Tales. Phelan observed that in Richard Chase's Jack Tales, "There's one story called Jack and the North West Wind so I knew there was a precedent for weather-based tales." A storekeeper named Ernie, who is presumed to have some Appalachian ancestry, has imperfect memory of the tales but tells Jack tales to bolster Jack's confidence. Ernie refers to tales such as "The King of the West Wind" and "Jack and the King of the Blizzard," and tells one about "the time that boy Jack whupped the two-headed King of the Northeast Winds," which is illustrated in this text and resembles "Jack and the Giants" tales (pp. 51-57). The story also contains allusions to The Wizard of Oz and comic book heroes. (See interview "Matt Phelan Captures a 'Storm in the Barn'" by Alex Dueben at Comic Book Resources.) Dueben describes the story as "a tall tale set in that mythic America populated by Ichabod Crane, Dorothy Gale, Paul Bunyan and many others," along with "historical details." Summary: "In Kansas in the year 1937, eleven-year-old Jack Clark faces his share of ordinary challenges: local bullies, his father's failed expectations, a little sister with an eye for trouble. But he also has to deal with the effects of the Dust Bowl, including rising tensions in his small town and the spread of a shadowy illness. Certainly a case of 'dust dementia' would explain who (or what) Jack has glimpsed in the Talbot's abandoned barn - a sinister figure with a face like rain. In a land where it never rains, it's hard to trust what you see with your own eyes, and harder still to take heart and be a hero when the time comes." See also Phelan's comments on this story as a Jack Tale, etc. after it won the 2010 Scott O'Dell award for historical fiction, at Notes from the Horn Book, vol. 3, no. 2, February 2010.

Salsi, Lynn. Jack and the Dragon. Illus. James Young. Brown Summit, NC: Forza Renea Editions, 2009. This picture book retelling of the Beech Mountain tale, with humorous color illustrations, describes the foods Jack prepares for his brothers, who don't believe him when he tells about the dragon that steals their lunch. The long red dragon has "flashing yellow eyes and crooked yellow teeth." When Jack follows the dragon down a well, he finds a blonde girl on top of a shining heap of gold and jewels and "jars of jam and honey." She gives him magic salve, a silver sword, and a wishing ring, which help him defeat the dragon and escape after his brothers take the girl and treasure. He subdues his brothers with his sword so they back down, claiming they were going to return for him and agreeing to do their own chores. A few years later Jack builds a house on a ridge and marries the girl. No background notes in this book, but Salsi gives background and analysis in the version she records in Appalachian Jack Tales: Told by Hicks, Ward and Harmon Families (Illus. James Young. Brown Summit, NC: Forza Renea Editions, 2008. pp. 135-44). Salsi reads both her picture book Jack tales on a CD, The Appalachian Jack Tales Audiobook, produced by Headline Kids, 2013.

Salsi, Lynn. Jack and the Giants. Illus. James Young. Terra Alta, WV: Headline Kids, 2013. Jack outsmarts two three-headed giants, and their kin, in this picture book retelling of the Beech Mountain tale, with humorous color illustrations. The beginning is like "Jack and the Varmints," when Jack kills some flies and then cuts the words on his belt, "Big Man Jack Killed Seven With One Whack." A farmer pays Jack to clear his land and run off the whole family of giants through a series of tricks. Jack takes his payment and the magic boots he gets from the giants back to his Mama. No background notes in this book, but Salsi gives background on similar tales told by Ray Hicks and Maud Long in the version of "Jack and the Giant's New Ground" she records in Appalachian Jack Tales: Told by Hicks, Ward and Harmon Families (Illus. James Young. Brown Summit, NC: Forza Renea Editions, 2008. pp. 145-63). Salsi reads both her picture book Jack tales on a CD produced by Headline Kids, 2013.

Spaulding, Minnie K. Jack and His Dogs. Illus. Jane Kelm. Johnson City, Tenn: Don & Mignon, 1972. Abstract from WorldCat: An Appalachian tale of Jack and his three dogs, who rid the woods of a bear. Music by Ottie Merle Stuckenbruck, Rachael Barrett. The introduction says that "no one knows where this story originated. However, it was told in Louisa County, Virginia." (ETSU library has a copy, Oct. 2007.)

Still, James. Jack and the Wonder Beans. Illus. Margot Tomes. 1977.  Rpt. Lexington, KY:  University Press of Kentucky, 1996.  The poet laureate of Kentucky retells the Appalachian story of Jack and the Bean Stalk. Page on James Still by Dr. Steve Mooney at VA Tech.

Woolridge, Connie Nordhielm (adapter). Wicked Jack. Illus. Will Hillenbrand. New York: Holiday House, 1995. Cartoonlike comedy and haunting mystery combine in this story of mean Jack the blacksmith, who is excluded from heaven and hell after he outwits the devil. A 1996 Aesop Accolade was awarded to this book by the American Folklore Society.

Page created August 2002   |   Top of Page   |   Last update: 8/30/13

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