Easy as Pie

Easy as Pie by Cari Best, illustrated by Melissa Sweet

Jacob’s favorite TV show is Baking with Chef Monty, so when Jacob sets out to bake his first pie, he knows all of Chef Monty’s rules by heart.  He knows that: a happy baker makes a happy pie.  He finds all of his ingredients in the kitchen and sets to work.  When his sister Charlotte comes to get him ready to go out for dinner and celebrate their parents’ anniversary, Jacob makes sure he keeps working because one of the rules is: Concentrate on what you’re doing – no matter what.  He rolls out the dough, fixing his mistakes like Chef Monty advises.  He flutes the edges of the pie and pricks holes in the top crust, slightly larger than Chef Monty would have recommended.  Soon the pie is in the oven, though his family is getting tired of waiting for Jacob to be ready to go.  But there is one solution to that!  Dessert first!

So many children’s books about cooking have the child making a horrible mess, combining strange and unappetizing ingredients together, all resulting in an inedible creation.  This turns that formula on its head with a child who is confident and capable, creating a pie that makes the parents’ anniversary even more special. 

Best’s writing is a pleasure to read aloud with the sprinkling of Chef Monty quotes throughout, great asides of noises, and plenty of action.  Sweet’s art is light-hearted and funny, filled with peach-colored splashes and funny touches like the titles of the books on the shelves.  The writing and text go together like ice cream and warm pie.

A great read aloud for any classroom starting a cooking project or any story time where food will be featured.  Guaranteed to be a favorite around Thanksgiving too.  Appropriate for ages 4-7.

Reviewed from copy received from Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

The Dancing Pancake

The Dancing Pancake by Eileen Spinelli, illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff

Bindi is facing a lot of changes in her life.  First, her father has left their family to find a job in another city.  A few months later, she learns that her parents have separated.  Now her mother and her aunt are starting a restaurant called The Dancing Pancake.  They will be moving into the apartment above the restaurant and out of their house.  As all of these changes hit, Bindi finds herself feeling sad and angry about them.  People at the restaurant and her extended family help her deal with her feelings and show her the positive in her life. 

This verse novel features a full cast of interesting characters.  The poems are written from Bindi’s point of view.  She is a protagonist who is open and honest about her feelings, even when she is struggling with them.  She offers readers a clear view of what children deal with when parents separate and life changes.  At the same time, she is uniquely Bindi, a girl who loves to read, worries about what sort of friend she is, and tries to help others whenever she can. 

Spinelli’s verse is short and sweet.  It has a clarity and understated feel to it that makes it very easy to read.  Lew-Vriethoff’s illustrations have a breezy, effortless quality to them.  They are simple line drawings that capture the moments in the book.  The verse format and the illustrations throughout the book will make this a very inviting title for young readers.

Highly recommended, this book strikes just the right balance between a girl’s life falling apart and a family ready to catch and hold her.  Appropriate for ages 7-10.

Reviewed from copy received from Knopf.

Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award

The 2010 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award has been given to Belgian illustrator, Kitty Crowther.  This Swedish award is the world’s largest prize for children and young adult literature.  The award money equates to about 490,000 Euros. 

Here is a quote about Crowther’s work from the award’s website:

Kitty Crowther is the master of line but also of atmosphere. She maintains the tradition of the picture book while transforming and renewing it. In her world, the door between imagination and reality is wide open. She addresses the reader gently and personally, but with profound effect. In her deeply felt empathy with people in difficulty, she shows ways in which weakness can be turned into strength. Humanism and sympathy permeate and unify her artistry.

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