I had to cheat a little bit for this one. I couldn’t get the latest Jack book, Jack and the Green Man, from the library. We have strict rules about buying stuff at our house because Vancouver apartments are tiny.
So I read The Queen of Paradise’s Garden, an older book in the series by Andy Jones, which was performed as a puppet show in Event 88. It’ll have to count at least until I can get my hands on a borrowed copy of Jones’s latest tall tale.
Seriously though, how cute are folk tales from Newfoundland? I just love how folk tales always poke at lazy people and have them fail at life.
In The Queen of Paradise’s Garden, an old woman gives birth to three boys named Tom, Bill and Jack. Her pregnancy was … unexpected. The three boys are super worried about the age of their parents, so they go on a quest to a magical garden to try and find a magical fruit that would make them young again. And of course the first two boys behave greedily, give up and head back home. The third boy, Jack, keeps going. His generous and gentle nature means people pop out of the woodwork to help him along the way. I won’t give away the ending.
This is an older book, from 2009, and the illustrations (by Darka Erdelji) are quite different from the illustrative styles I’m seeing on social media and newer books for kids. The edges are sharp, nothing is cute and the illustrative style is quite dark. Everything looks hand drawn and like nothing has been smoothed out on a computer. It was weird to think: ‘Huh. I never see people drawn unattractively anymore.’ I enjoyed the jarring experience. I felt it captured the dark undertones of folklore and fairy tales that haven’t been Disney-fied.
Andy Jones was at Events 8 (Newfoundland Yarns), 21 (A Series of Adventures) and 88 (Newfoundland Jack Tales) at the 2017 Vancouver Writers Festival.