Clever Jack Takes the Cake

Written By: Candace Fleming

Illustrated By: Brian Karas

Before Reading

Explore Illustrations and Text:

Clever Jack struggles to find a birthday gift worthy of the princess, but when he decides to bake her a delicious cake,  he discovers that getting the cake to the princess in one piece may prove to be more difficult than anticipated. Start off your discussion by talking about the cover and illustrations, asking questions like:

What do you notice on the cover?

Why do you think they call him Clever Jack?

What events do people usually bake cakes for? What do you think Jack’s cake is for?

What do you think those birds are doing?

What do you think will happen in this story?

Encouraging your child to make predictions is a great way to activate his/her imagination. Just be sure to assure your child that these are just guesses and that there are no right or wrong answers.

As You Read

A troll, an old gypsy, and a bear are just some of the supporting characters featured in this story. Give each character their own voice and persona to create a more lively and entertaining storytime. Also, help your child make predictions about what will happen next in the story. For example, when Jack’s mother asks Jack what he plans to make the cake from, ask, “What do you think he will use to bake the cake? Where will he get the ingredients?”

Vocabulary Building:

If your child comes across a word that s/he is is unfamiliar with, take a moment to ask your child what s/he thinks it may mean. Encourage him/her to use the illustrations and words around it to discover its meaning. Examples of new words in Clever Jack Takes the Cake include:




It may also be helpful to give your child more examples of how each word can be used, once you have discussed the definition. For example, you can say, “If a food is very juicy, then it is SUCCULENT. A piece of meat can also be succulent, it’s not just fruits like strawberries and peaches.”

Making Connections:

Discuss how this story relates to other stories that s/he has read in the past. When the troll enters the story, ask, “Have you read any other fairy tales or stories with trolls in them? If so, how is this troll similar to the troll from the other story? How are they different? What are some other stories that have princesses in them? Can you think of any other fairy tales or stories where the main character is named Jack (i.e. Jack and the Beanstalk or Jack and Jill)?”

After Reading

Summarize and Interpret:

A great way to start off discussing the story is by talking about what your child thought of the book and its characters. Ask questions like “Did you like that story? Why or why not?” or “What was your favorite part of the story?” Be sure to address dominant themes and characteristics of the characters. For example, ask questions like:

What did Jack do when he didn’t have any ingredients for the princess’ cake?

Why didn’t Jake turn back around when he had nothing left to give to the princess? What did he give her instead?  

How would you describe Jack’s character?

Do you think you are brave and never give up like Jack? Why or why not?

Activity: Bake A Mini Birthday Cake!

Inspired by Mixing Bowl Kids


Supplies: 13”x18” baking sheet, whisk and/or an electric mixer, two bowls, 3 eggs, 3 tablespoons of milk, 1 ½ teaspoons of vanilla, 1 ½ cups of all purpose flour, ¾ cup of sugar, ¾ teaspoon of baking powder, ¼ teaspoon of salt, ¾ cup unsalted, softened butter, 1 recipe of your favorite icing, and candles (optional)

You can bake your own mini cakes to celebrate the princess’s birthday or your own! The best part is that baking not only is a fun activity on its own, but it also helps your child practice skills like following instructions and measuring. You may not want to bake a whole cake, so here is a recipe for delicious mini vanilla cakes! This recipe make 8 servings.

Prep: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 13”x 18” baking sheet with butter and cover the sheet with a piece of parchment.

Make the Batter:  In a small bowl, combine the eggs, milk and vanilla and whisk them together. In a bowl for an electric mixer, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt and mix on a low speed for 30 seconds. Add butter and ⅓ of the egg mixture and beat for 1 minute. Add the remaining egg mixture in two batches, beating each for 20 seconds. If you don’t have a mixer, simply mix with the whisk until the ingredients are well mixed.

Bake: Pour your batter onto the baking sheet and use a spatula to spread the batter to the sides of the pan. Be sure to cover the surface of the sheet completely. Bake for 17-22 minutes, or until the center of the cake is fully baked. Remove from the oven and let it cool.

Assemble: Cut round pieces from the cake with a 2” wide cookie cutter, leaving you with 24 pieces of cake. Group the pieces together in sets of three and place one from each group onto the parchment paper. Add a layer of your favorite icing to each piece and top them with the next layer. Repeat this until you have 8 mini cakes, each with three slices of cake and three layers of icing.

Decorate: Decorate your cakes with sprinkles, colored icing, or any other decorations that you’d like. If it’s someone’s birthday or if you want to celebrate the princess’ birthday, add some candles on top to be blown out!