Spill the Beans
Spill the Beans
“Guys, you’re not trading Prince for some plain old beans,” Jack says, stepping forward. “My mum was right. We’re being ridiculous. There’s no such thing as magic beans. And super poor families like me and my mom don’t get rich overnight. Trust me, I wish we could, but it doesn’t happen.”
Sigh. Why does he have to be so nice? If only he were a jerk, I could grab Jonah and Prince and make a run for it. I’d find the portal back home and leave this fairy tale behind. But no. When we’re in fairy tales, we have to help, no matter what. That’s why Maryrose sends us into the stories in the first place. To help. I think, anyway. Or it might just be to train us for a mission. We’re not exactly sure.
Jonah’s lip quivers. I know he doesn’t want to let Jack down.
Imagine you had the opportunity to be a character in your favourite story or book: would you jump at the chance, or would you decline, worried your presence would change or mess up the story you love? Choices can be tough, especially when someone will be disappointed no matter what you decide. The pressure is that much worse when your decision could change literature forever and disappoint your literary hero. Abby, Jonah, and their friends, real and fictional, face one difficult choice after another in Spill the Beans, another title in the “Whatever After” series.
There are few things worse than being pressured to pick a side when your two best friends are fighting, especially when you’re young. Abby knows that any choice she makes will leave at least one of her two best friends upset. Finding a compromise can be tricky, and, no matter how fair it may be, someone usually feels like they got the worst deal. Abby and her little brother Jonah soon find out compromise and fair resolutions can be just as tricky in fairy tales.
Abby’s distracted from her dilemma for a moment when her little brother Jonah has a disappointing turn in the net at his soccer game. She knows exactly what will cheer him up: a visit to a fairy tale! She hopes that the idea that Maryrose, the fairy that lived in the magic mirror in their basement, might send them to “Jack and the Beanstalk”, Jonah’s favourite fairytale, will cheer Jonah up. Even though Jonah’s positive he’ll never get to meet Jack, he lets Abby haul him down to the basement to Maryrose’s mirror. At first, Jonah refuses to believe they’ve really landed in “Jack and the Beanstalk”. Once Abby convinces Jonah they’re in “Jack and the Beanstalk”, a new problem arises: their presence changes every fairy tale they visit just a little, and Johan doesn’t want to change his favourite, and perfect, fairy tale. Unfortunately for Jonah, it’s too late to turn back.
Jonah’s relieved when it’s clear Jack is as awesome as Jonah imagined he would be, and it turns out Jack’s also a pro at soccer. Jonah loves his sister Abby, but Jack is the cool big brother Jonah never had, soccer tips included. After a bit of fun, it’s time to get down to business: getting the Giant’s goose that lays golden eggs. A stranger named Devin gets them the beans they need to grow a beanstalk that reaches the sky, but the beans come at a high price: if they don’t succeed, Prince becomes Devin’s new pet. Abby and Jonah see only one option: to make the deal, steal what they and Jack need from the giants, and get Prince back so everyone lives happily ever after.
Everything is going well until they make a story-changing discovery: the three giants aren’t human-eating monsters, and they have more in common with Jack than any of them could have imagined. After getting to know Phillipa, Magus, and Elden, Abby, Jonah, and Jack, and even Devin, come to a resolution that leaves everyone happy and sends a clear message: being kind is more valuable than money and winning every time.
With her latest installment in her “Whatever After” series, Sarah Mlynowski once again gives readers a fresh spin on a classic fairy tale with gently delivered but clear lessons. Empathy, compromise, the importance of getting to know people before judging them, and that just trying can be more important than succeeding play important roles in Spill the Beans. Giving Jonah the chance to play soccer with Jack, his fairy tale hero, thereby boosting his confidence after a rotten day on the field, was a brilliant addition to the story. Readers will thoroughly enjoy Spill the Beans and will be eager to join Abby and Jonah on their next adventure through the magic mirror.
Crystal Sutherland, librarian at the Nova Scotia Advisory Council on the Status of Women, lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia.