Carter has asked that I re-write “Jack and the Beanstalk” to read to his second grade class on Authors’ Day. I am stuck.

I am actually thinking of a re-write for adults and another for 8-year-olds. I want to recast Jack as a somewhat nebbish Woody Allen-esque character, you know, still lives with his mother, never gets anything right, gets swindled out of his cows, knows how to sweet talk the giant’s wife. (In case you wondered, the word nebbish comes from the Yiddish nebekh, meaning poor, unfortunate, and before that from the Czech nebohý. I love words, and I have always thought of Jack as nebbish, even though I didn’t have the word for him.)

So here’s where you come in.

What kinds of new plot twists or characters could we derive to make the story fun for second graders? Or for adults?

Add your ideas to the Comments section or email me at “lullabyemail (at) gmail dot com.”

Nevski Prospekt

“You are too young to have eyebrows like that,” she said with her Russian accent. “You look like Brezhnev.” So Irena, one of forty or so barbers at Astor Place Hairstylists, always remembered to cut them. Continue reading


Eddie’s white stretch limo glided by around 5:30 in the opposite lane heading toward campus to pick up him and his girlfriend Ann. My colleague Terry’s eldest child has his prom tonight. Since Terry lives on the school property, Eddie and his date will take their pictures on the grounds, probably standing somewhere in the meadow that used to be a practice polo field when the 117 acres was owned by the publisher of the Boston Globe back in the early 20th century.

My prom, in New York City in 1981, was not so bucolic, nor so romantic. Continue reading