The House That Jack Built: A Child’s Guide to Neglecting the Fire Code

The House That Jack Built: A Child’s Guide to Neglecting the Fire Code

It’s hard to criticize a nursery rhyme that was originally published in 1755, but when they’re continuing to print the book for children to gain habits from . . . well, something needs done.

The specific book that I read and took these pictures from was originally my dad’s when he was a child. A few years ago he and I remodeled the kitchen in my parents’ house. Just a new floor, new cabinets and a backsplash. We didn’t run any new plumbing or electrical, and there was no structural changes to the layout of the kitchen. A competent contractor would’ve banged it out in a long weekend. It took us 6 weeks.

I hadn’t expected to set any land speed records, and the finished product turned out great, if I do say so myself, but still . . . 6 weeks.

And if I were to wonder why my immediate family isn’t more inclined to be skilled contractors, I think I have discovered the reason why. The House That Jack Built. First, my dad read it, then I read it, and now my sons are going to read it. Let’s just say, we should probably hope my sons are book smart, cause they likely won’t be spending much swinging a hammer. And, if this book is any indication, that is fine by me.

Look how happy everyone seems. One happy family assembling a tiny little dog house, right.

On no. Jack is on a ladder. That’s not a simple dog house at all.

THAT’S THE FREAKIN CROW’S NEST. Why . . . why are all the animals on the roof? And why does he have grass seed. He can’t be putting grass on the roof, can he? Can he?!?

Okay, let’s just be honest . . . it looks like a house that Jack would build. I mean, look at him. Is he older than 14? No unkempt, strawberry blonde 14-year-old has ever built a reliable living structure. It just hasn’t happened.

I don’t even know where to begin with this piecemeal monstrosity. Predictably, he is building it right on the lawn with no basement and no discernible plumbing, meaning one good rain and his living room is now knee deep in mud. Has the kid never gone camping? Did he not understand why tents have bottoms? Come on, kid. Just a little foresight, please.

And, you’re really going to use a tree as a major wall support? You understand that all that grass and lawn furniture you’ve planted on the roof carries some weight, right? In fact, what’s the reason for the grass on the roof? Does he think he’s building a green living space in Manhattan? Does he think this is some kind water-reclaiming office building in Silicon Valley? Can he not see that he’s literally surrounded by acres of seemingly healthy grass?

I dunno, maybe I’m just a worrier. Maybe everything is well in hand. After all, he’s got professional blueprints tucked under his arm, so what could go wrong? What’s that? It’s not blueprints? It’s actually a yoga mat? . . . He’s going to die in this house, isn’t he?

Where is this malt? This room appears to be some sort of crawl space, but his abominable abode obviously wouldn’t have included a crawl space, right? Is this the crummy room next to the house? Is there anything in this room besides malt? Did he build a whole separate wing of the house to store his malt supply? And has he never heard of a mouse trap? This mouse has clearly chewed a whole in every single bag. If your house is not yet completed, but you’ve already got a major rat infestation, I think you need to reassess your construction site.

And what the hell is a 14-year-old using malt for, anyways? Is he making booze? Is this shanty really just a shack to protect his illegal copper still?

OSHA and the FDA need to be having a word with this child.

Things have taken a turn. Murder lurks in the shadows of a children’s book.

First of all . . . . does the forlorn maiden also have a tail? Is her ponytail sticking straight out? But more importantly, and I ask this is total sincerity . . . do cows have horns? I thought that, to have a horn, it would have to be male and would therefore be classified as a bull. I could be totally wrong. I’m going to do research. Be right back.

Okay, some dairy cows do have horns, but they’re almost always cut off when they’re young so they don’t fight and injure other cows. To be fair, this book was written in the 40s, so maybe they did things differently back then. Or maybe the cow is about to get dehorned, and that’s why the maiden is so forlorn. There really is no good explanation why she’s so sad.

Spoke too soon. She’s marrying a homeless dude. That’s why she’s sad. Appropriately, the ceremony is being performed by the world’s most casual priest, who didn’t even bother to change out of his bedroom slippers for the occasion.

And . . . hold on . . . is this taking place in Jack’s house? I assume it is, otherwise why is it in the story at all? But, why isn’t Jack in attendance? He has to know these people, right? Did he send his bloodied cat as his proxy? Could he not have loaned the homeless guy some clothes?


That’s not just a simple farmer. That’s a straight up Amish dude. Does Jack have hired help?!? HE’S 14!!! What an amazing young businessman (businessboy?). Color me impressed.

And, admittedly, I’m not an expert on sowing corn, but I’m surprised to see that “sowing” basically means “stomping seeds into the mud with your clogs.” At least he seems happy, so who am I to judge?

The chaos is reaching fever pitch.

To get you caught up (since the dog and rooster seem to have come out of nowhere), I did skip over certain parts of this literary dandy (the pages with the dog were dull, and the introduction of the cock who crows in the morn . . . well, this is a G-rated blog). But now here we are, with everyone prancing after each other like a psychotic, interspecies game of follow the leader.

A few observations:

  • The rooster is showing impeccable agility to stay perched on the priest’s shoulder while he gallivants after the couple he just married. (Do all priests giddily chase after the people they marry? My father-in-law married me. Should I be watching out for him to break into a joyful skip as he follows me around? Is this a fun ritual that my wife and I missed out on?)
  • Of course, there’s Jack, ever the stickler for inventory, continuing to protect his precious malt like any good underage alcohol entrepreneur.
  • Is this a fresh mouse? Did the cat fail in his previous conquest?
  • Most disturbingly is the hobo guy who conned the forlorn maiden into getting hitched; he’s clearly tugging on the she-male cow’s tail like a true bovine deviant. And he’s obviously loving it. Has a women ever regretted a marriage faster than this maiden? Let this be a lesson, little girls everywhere . . . don’t marry guys with holes in their pants, cause they’ll just mistreat your dairy supply. (There may be an innuendo in there somewhere, but, like I said, this blog is G-rated.)


How did she even get up there?!? Even if there are steps on the back side of this place, don’t they know that cows can’t walk down stairs?!? They’re going to need a freaking crane to get that cow down.

And, what kind of pandemonium has Jack brought upon himself? You’ve got five people living in squalor in that shack of a house. Is it some kind of commune? Is Jack the leader of a very poorly funded cult? How does a boy meet a priest, a maiden, a homeless guy and an Amish guy and convince all of them to move into his ramshackle apartment? I can think of no plausible scenarios where this situation would play out.

But, now that they’re here, CAN NOBODY SPEND A FEW MINUTES TO MAKE SIMPLE IMPROVEMENTS?!? There is no front door. The chimney stones are crumbling. The stables / malt room has a mouse doorway. There’s still an open can of paint hanging on the tree and a ladder set up; can we not get the painting done at least? Can the Amish guy not do some carpentry work so it’s not so drafty?


This is going to end SO poorly.

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