The book starts with four-year-old Prince Jack being given a tour of the castle by his father. He takes no notice to most areas, but once they reach the kitchens, he is mesmerized. Young Prince Jack watches in awe as the cooks prepare the day’s luncheon; then he wanders right up to where the action is. Seeing this, his father assumes he’s hungry, so he takes him back to his chamber to have lunch with his nurse. When the king explains to the nurse what happened, she guesses right why Prince Jack wandered right up to the action in the kitchen. She doesn’t tell the king, though, for she knows he doesn’t want his son interested in a lowly task like cooking, but the very next day, and for many days after that, she takes him back to the kitchens to watch the cooks. Two years later, when Jack is too old for a nurse and gets a male servant, the nurse reveals their secret to him, who continues Jack’s kitchen escapades. By now the prince is not only watching the cooks, but helping them, too. This goes on for two more years, ending with Prince Jack starting his magical training.
“Come, my boy,” King Harry said to Jack, his four-year-old son and heir. “I am about to show you my castle! Someday it will be your castle! And your kingdom, yes-ir-ee!” King Harry took Prince Jack by the hand and started the tour. The small boy took no notice to most of the places they visited. He didn’t seem that interested in anything, his father thought, until they reached the kitchen. Little Jack was mesmerized the moment they entered that room. For a few minutes, he simply watched in awe as the cooks prepared the day’s luncheon, then he walked right up to where the action was! The little prince looked up and strained his eyes, wanting to catch a better work at the cooking, but at that very moment, his father picked him up.
“What are you lingering in the kitchen for, my boy?” he asked. “You couldn’t be interested in cooking! That’s peasants’ work! Nay, nay, you must be hungry! I shall take you back to your chamber so you can have lunch with your nurse!” With that, the king carried off his son, who was still gazing longingly at the cooks.
When they got to Prince Jack’s chamber, the nurse greeted them both with a curtsy, then gathered up her beloved young prince in her arms.
“Hey, there, Jack!” she cooed, kissing his cheek. “How’s my favorite little boy?”
“Hungry,” answered King Harry, for Prince Jack was a very quiet boy and didn’t speak that much. “You should ask the cooks deliver lunch to these chambers immediatly.”
“Isn’t it a little early for lunch?” the nurse asked, for it was only eleven o’clock.
“Not for this big boy!” the king chortled. “He’s mighty hungry!”
“Begging your pardon, Your Majesty,” said the nurse. “But he doesn’t seem to be hungry.” The nurse had been taking care of Jack since the day he was born, and she knew that when he was hungry, he never looked this content.
The king faltered. This nurse, a very clever woman, had rightly contradicted him twice in one discussion. Yes, it was early for lunch, and Prince Jack no longer seemed hungry. Why, even in the kitchen, he didn’t have the unhappy look on his face that usually meant he was hungry.
Since she was one of his smartest servants, King Harry often confided in this nurse his worries or confusion. After several moments of confused silence, he finally decided to do so.
“Well, if you want to know the truth,” he began. “This boy did not show any signs of hunger until we entered the kitchens on his castle tour.”
“Oh?” asked the nurse. “Did he look unhappy then?”
“No,” said the king. “On the contrary, he looked happier than he ever had before! He gazed in awe at the cooks’ work, and then he walked right up to them. I know he doesn’t usually look happy when he’s hungry, but hunger is the only reason I can think of for him acting this way.” King Harry dared not mention his worry that his son was interested in cooking, for it was a very lowly chore that his wife had particularly unhappy memories of.
“Oh, he’s probably just learning to be more direct about what he wants,” said the nurse, secretly knowing the truth. “Why don’t I send for lunch?”
“You’re absolutely right!” beamed the king. “You’re getting to be a big boy, aren’t you, Jack?” Still thinking about the cooking he saw, Prince Jack returned his dad’s grin.
“Goodbye, my boy!” his father said. “Be good for your nurse!” With that, he gave him a kiss and left.
As soon as the king was gone, the nurse wasted no time in nurturing her prince’s newly found interest.
“You’re not really hungry, are you, Your Highness?” she asked. Prince Jack shook his head.
“I didn’t think so. You just wanted to watch those people cooking!” Jack nodded. He was too young too describe it in words, but all those chefs cooking in the kitchen was the most amazing thing he had ever seen. The nurse smiled, but then, suddenly, her face turned sour and she sighed.
“Your daddy is not going to like us if he finds out,” she said. “He wants you to be into princely things, not cooking. But don’t you worry. You’ll get to see those cooks again. I’ll make sure of it! We’ll just see to it that Daddy doesn’t find out!” With that, she winked at him. Jack winked back.
The next day, and for many days after that, Jack and his nurse visited the castle kitchen. Jack’s fascination grew with every kitchen escapade, and the more the cooks saw him, the fonder they became of him. Finally, a royal who actually respected them their work! They had secretly hoped for many years that the royals would start appreciating them more than they did.
Jack loved his nurse, and they spent many happy days together. But alas, when he was six years old the day came for her to leave him.
“You’re not my little one anymore, Jack,” his mother said. “You are getting to be a man, and someday you will rule this kingdom.”
“Yes,” agreed his father. “That means it is time for you to say goodbye to your nurse. You are too old for a woman’s care. It is high time you had yourself some servants!”
Jack said goodbye to his nurse, and soon he met his new servant, Will. Before leaving, though, the nurse had a few words with Will.
“Before you start waiting on him, Will,” she said, “there is something about this boy you should know.”
“His father already told me all there is to know about him,” said Will, pompously.
“Aww, but there is one thing his father doesn’t know!” said a very sheepish nurse.
“What are you talking about?” asked Will. He obviously didn’t want any servant besides him knowing what the king didn’t.
“I am talking about cooking,” said the nurse. “Nothing fascinates this boy like cooking! I take him to the kitchens every day to watch the cooks preparing meals.”
“How does his mother let you get away with that?” asked the servant. “She hates cooking! She’d have a heart attack if she knew her son was interested in cooking! I’m not gonna be responsible for that!”
“His mother doesn’t know,” said the nurse, calmly. “She never sets foot in the kitchen.”
“His father does, though,” pressed Will. “If he finds out, he’ll tell the queen for sure!”
“His father doesn’t know either,” the nurse reassured him. “I have learned to be very secretive about our kitchen escapades.”
“Are you saying,” asked Will “that you want me to take him to the kitchen, too?”
“Yes,” answered the nurse. “Any care giver of his must. He’d be heart broken if you didn’t!”
“I suppose this means I would have to be secretive?” asked Will.
“Of course!” laughed the nurse. “Otherwise the king will catch you!”
“You mean, I get to keep secrets from the king?” asked Will.
“You bet!” said the nurse.
“Whoopee!” shouted Will, very uncharacteristically. “This is the greatest news ever! I’ve never kept secrets from a king before! Whoopee!”
“Shh, not so loud,” whispered the nurse.
“Oh, right, right,” said Will. But he took Prince Jack by the hand and said, “Come on, my boy! Let’s be secretive!”
“Wait one minute!” said the nurse. “I need to teach you what to do first, don’t I?”
“Well, I suppose so, Ma’am,” said Will, awkwardly.
“Come here,” she said. “I will whisper the instructions to you.” Will came forward, and the nurse whispered her secrets in his ear. Once he had all the facts straight, Will took Prince Jack on their very first kitchen escapade together. Soon Jack was not only watching the cooks, but helping them, too.
As Prince Jack approached his eight-year-old birthday, he tried hard to enjoy his kitchen escapades with the ever-looming reality of starting his magical training. Jack had never cast a spell before, and most children his age had, so Jack didn’t think he’d be any good at learning magic.