Cooking with Henry and Elliebelly: Serving Up Imagination


Cooking with Henry and Elliebelly by Carolyn Parkhurst, illustrated by Dan Yaccarino

Henry is doing a pretend cooking show with his 2-year-old little sister Eleanor, whom he calls Elliebelly.  They have plans to demonstrate the incredible-sounding “raspberry-marshmallow-peanut butter waffles with barbecued banana bacon.”  But first they have to do their theme song.  And then they need to put on their chef hats.  That’s where things start to go awry, because Elliebelly insists that they must wear pirate hats instead.  In the argument that follows, Henry doesn’t get any help from his off-page mother, so he copes as best he can.  Now wearing pirate hats, next incorporating dolls into the hosting and then the recipes, and finally trying to explain that all of their effort was for pretend waffles.  Luckily, their mother has some real waffles waiting for them, but probably not any barbecued banana bacon on the side.

Parkhurst has captured the interplay between siblings perfectly here.  There are the moments where everything is going fine, and then those bumpy patches, and finally when it all falls apart.  The interjections from the off-page mother are funny, well-timed and not very helpful, as mother interjections tend to be.  The characters of the two children are well drawn.  Henry is a great big brother but is not above complete exasperation as his plans fall to bits around him. 

The emphasis on pretending and the flexibility of ideas is a pleasure to read.  I love that there is no frantic notion of cleanliness here, the children are allowed to play, allowed to work their way through disagreements, and yet there is an adult right there if needed.  And yes, they make a splendid mess as most children do. 

Yaccarino’s art lends a great modern vibe to a book that could have skewed differently.  His visual interplay of the two children adds to the appeal.  He also supports the humor of the text, as with the first picture of Henry after putting on the pirate hat.  Pure misery, but oh so funny!

Funny, clever and imaginative, this book reads aloud like a dream.  If you are doing a unit or story time on cooking, this will make a great addition, especially for slightly older children who will relate best to the humor of a younger sibling.  Appropriate for ages 4-7.

Reviewed from copy received from Feiwel & Friends.