Sunday, February 22, 2009


MADAME PAMPLEMOUSSE AND HER INCREDIBLE EDIBLES by Rupert Kingfisher, illustrated by Sue Hellard (Bloomsbury)
Minotaur salami with sage and wild thyme. Salt-cured raptor tails. Crocodile kidneys in blueberry wine. Great white shark fin in banana liquor. Pate of North Atlantic sea serpent with green peppercorn mustard. These are just a few of the colorful delicacies that swirl inside their jars on the shelves of the mysterious storefront of Madame Pamplemousse, where she concocts such original fare with her frowning feline sidekick Camembert. Across town, through the narrow streets of Paris, another cook is hard at work: Monsieur Lard at the Squealing Pig, a jealous, untalented head chef who is squelching the skills of his gifted niece Madeleine, relegating her to wash dishes in Roald-Dahl-like squalor. When a twist of fate lands one of Pamplemousse's masterpieces into Lard's greasy palms, he sends Madeleine to work for the eccentric genius and to discover her secrets. How can the little girl maintain her loyalty to her new and inspiring colleague while protecting poor Pamplemousse from the nefarious relative? No worries; this Madame can take care of herself very nicely thank-you-very-much, and in the process Madeleine's own gifts get unwrapped for the world as well. This book is odd and rare, an imaginative fantasy celebration of the adventures of the kitchen, including the sense of risk and discovery. The story also plays on the sophisticated theme of the work we do for others and for acclaim, and the art we create for the sake of art. The language is uninhibited and elegant, the characters are strong and memorable (albeit caricatured for dramatic effect), and the novella length is perfect for a read-aloud main course; like any good entree, there's enough meat to sink your teeth into without feeling overstuffed. It's plated up perfectly as well, with fetching, frilly spot illustrations throughout that are absolutely oo-la-la. Very special on the reading menu. (8 and up)

Also of interest:
More great adventures with food, and the foodies that love it.


Wake up, Jacon. Day's a breakin'.
Fryin' pan's on and cornbread's bakin'.
Bacon in the pan. Coffee in the pot.
Git up now and get it while it's hot.

Spend time in the garden in Freetown, Virginia, a community founded by emancipated slaves where folks live by the seasons and share what they grow. "We're rich as kings as long as we have beans," says Mama. "You'll need to outrun the rabbits to get all the berries." "Melons are just like friends," Granny says. "Gotta try ten before you get a good one." As young Edna Lewis came up among this lovely bounty and banter, between bites of perfect peach pie and tangy tomato sandwiches and sips of healing sassafras tea, she discovered the way that food tastes freshest is if you deliver it from vine to table toot-sweet. When Edna grows up, she becomes a chef and owns restaurants, bringing the sunny pleasures of Southern regional cooking to new palates. Juicy watercolor illustrations, five manageable recipes from Edna's own country kitchen and an affectionate author's note make the book complete. If you have a taste for a fun Black History Month storytime, pair with with information about the chef and potato chip innovator George Crum (Penelope Stowell's THE GREATEST POTATO or Frank Morrison's GEORGE CRUM AND THE SARATOGA CHIP). (6 and up)

BEETLE MCGRADY EATS BUGS! by Megan McDonald, illustrated by Jane Manning (Greenwillow) Think you've got a picky eater? Whatever you're serving won't seem so bad after this. Beetle McGrady dreams of being a real explorer, a true pioneer, but where to begin? When an ant wanders across the food pyramid that Table 6 is working on, Beetle is inspired to break new ground by creating a brand new food group, but she's not quite sure if her appetite for adventure matches her appetite for bugs. Thanks to a creative culinary class visitor, the opportunity presents itself for crunching on a creepy crawly, and maybe even connecting with the wider world. This much more modern picture book addendum to Thomas Rockwell's classic novel HOW TO EAT FRIED WORMS is drawn in stylized, angular spreads. The text is especially well-written, fun to read aloud and features a heroine with a special fearlessness that marks a new breed of little girl. Be sure to check out Beetle's "Tips for Eating Bugs" on the endpapers. (6 and up)

Also on the subject of food and fussiness, don't miss LITTLE PEA by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, illustrated by Jen Corace (Chronicle). "If you want to grow up and be a big, strong pea, you have to eat your candy," Papa Pea would say. "If you don't finish your candy then you can't have dessert," Mama Pea would say. But yuck! Little Pea doesn't like candy! Can he make it through dinner to dessert…and a surprise ending? The simplest illustrations against a white backdrop manage brilliantly to convey color, movement and family coziness, and you don't have to be a mealtime fussbudget to appreciate the clever reversals in this dearest, darlingest book. Peas have never looked so appetizing, especially paired at a storytime with Lauren Child's hipster plea, I WILL NEVER NOT EVER EAT A TOMATO (Orchard) or George McClement's NIGHT OF THE VEGGIE MONSTER (Bloomsbury). (3 and up)

MAISY BAKES A CAKE by Lucy Cousins (Candlewick) Maisy is the one mouse you wouldn't mind having in your kitchen. Join her in her step-by-step process and revel in the clever effects as she watches batter rise through the ovrn window, sifts sugar on top of her strawberry cake and feeds her day's labor to a most appreciative alligator. A durable and delightful pop-up that doubles as a kitchen word book for your littlest line cook. (3 and up)

ICE CREAM CONES FOR SALE by Elaine Greenstein (Scholastic)
Who invented the ice cream cone? Was it Ernest Hamwi, a waffle-maker from Syria? Did the muse visit Charles Menches when he handed a bouquet to his lady-love? Was it Italo Marchiony, who pushed the pushcart all day in the hot summer sun? There are seven contenders for the credit cone at the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis, but only one is the true inventor. Children will have fun trying to guess which one it is, and also be introduced to the idea that there are many claims on history; use this book to springboard into an investigation into the story behind inventions. The pastel scratchboard technique is as cheerful as a strawberry sundae, but this book is better than a banana split for my money: it won't melt! Use this summery reading treat to turn any primary ice cream social into a storytime, too. Librarians, it is also a sweet first scoop to an Upstart Ice Cream Reading Promotion. (5 and up)

THE ADVENTUROUS CHEF: ALEXIS SOYER by Ann Arnold (Farrar Straus and Giroux)
Ze special tonight is ze culinary delight Alexis Soyer, ze king of ze kitchen, ze man who revolutionized what a kitchen can do for ze world, don't you see! Oh, you don't? Then you must read this picture book biography which follows Soyer from a rakish cooking school student to the celebrated chef of Europe's aristocracy, to the savior/foodie during the Irish potato famine and the Crimean War. Faithful to French fashion, there is a love story baked in, but what really caramelizes this book is all the interesting advances Soyer suggested, making him a notable inventor and humanitarian as well as a great chef. There are things in all of our kitchens that we can attribute to Soyer's innovations, read and find out what they are! Yes, the pen and ink with watercolor illustrations are yummy: detailed and delicate. The map of Soyer's dream kitchen is captivating to explore. This is a noble story of an epicurean life, and one that will inspire children who are destined to make unconventional contributions. (8 and up)

CHICKS AND SALSA by Aaron Reynolds, illustrated by Paulette Bogan (Bloomsbury) Fans of Doreen Cronin's classic CLICK, CLACK, MOO: COWS THAT TYPE will find a new cock of the walk in this story of a farmyard looking for a little culinary variety, and finding it through Mexican cuisine. Now, where the ducks got the guacamole, the chickens got the tortilla chips and the bull snared the sombrero remains a mystery, but you'll be glad they did! When the cuisine proves irresistable, the farmer and his wife may have to get in on the fiesta. This slightly irreverent book about eating outside the box (or the henhouse or pen, whatever the case may be) has pictures as colorful as a broken pinata, and will whet many young readers' appetites for trying new cuisines. Recipes included, but you may want to have many more international cookbooks on hand! (5 and up) Check out the saucy sequel, BUFFALO WINGS, or pair with another barnyard star for parody-for-thought, THE LITTLE RED HEN (MAKES A PIZZA), by Philomel Sturges, illustrated by Amy Walrod (Penguin)(5 and up).

Uh-oh. Honestly, I really was only going to recommend a couple of books today, but the theme is just too appetizing. It seems my eyes are bigger than my stomach, as they say...but luckily, they aren't bigger than my bookshelf. Books and dieting just don't mix! If you feel the same, rise to the occasion with a "Raise a Reader" program, a cozy plan to gather books, children and cooking together which was easy enough that I was able to run it from my apartment when I was on maternity leave with my son, or scroll down on the same page for a "Books for Breakfast" initiative, always a page-turning way to start the day and a boon to schools with populations of children who come to school early for a meal. Bon appetit, buen provecho, and happy reading-eating!

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Teaching Enthusiast said...

I have used the book, Ice Cream Cones for Sale, in a Writing unit with my third graders! We were writing "How to" to make icecream...great book! The Little Red Hen makes a pizza...adorable!! I overheard the K-4 teachers talking about using this book just the other day, and followed it with making pepperoni pizzas! I enjoy reading your blog...because I am constantly finding titles that I haven't heard of...and I'm always searching for books to use as models for our writing units! Thanks!

Lindsay said...

Madame Pamplemousse seems like it would right up my alley! I love to bake and it would be a fun book to some how make a lesson around. I'm going to have to put this at the top of my list to pick up!


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