Are All the Giants Dead? by Mary Norton

A story about stories and fairy tales by a famous author with great illustrations (by Brian Froud)? Yes, please. Are All the Giants Dead? by Mary Norton (famous for Bed-Knob and Broomstick and The Borrowers) was originally published in the UK in 1975 but brought to the US in 1997.  I picked up a paperback version at a local library sale for like a dollar. I think the kids calls this “winning.”

Familiar with Norton’s other books but not this volume, I was intrigued from the start:

One night, when he should be safe in bed, young James is whisked away by his friend Mildred to the fairy tale land of Happily Ever After. There Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty are middle-aged gossips; Bell’s husband, the Beast, spends his days hunting dragon and unicorn; And Jack-the-Giant-Killer and Jack-of-the-beanstalk while away their retirement telling yarns about slaying the last of the giants.

But the two Jack’s aren’t quite telling the truth: one fierce man-eating giant still lives. And to spare his friend Princess Dulcibel from have to marry an enchanted toad, James must steal something from the dreaded giant’s bone-strewn lair, a place where even the veteran giant-killers fear to tread.

Sucked in by this back of the book blurb, I decided to read it right away not really knowing what to expect.  It turned out to be a clever, if simple, story about courage and belief; and about fairy and folk tales. In classic fairy tale form James faces his fears and saves the princess – just not in exactly the way he might have imagined.

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