CINNAMON BABY by Nicola Winstanley, illustrated by Janice Nadeau (Kids Can Press)
LOVE love love love LOVE love LOOOVE, what could be more romantic than a family? And that's exactly what comes about after Sebastian the violinist falls for Miriam the baker. But alas, for all the affection in the family house, their baby won't stop crying like crazy. It isn't until Mama Miriam bakes every loaf in the cookbook that the baby recognizes the warm and sugary-sweet smell remembered from time spent cooking in the oven of the womb. Collage and curlicued watercolor lines wend through the pages, graceful as filigree. The illustration of all three cozied up on a family bed, and Miriam wandering worried (and maybe a little embarrassed?) on a walk while the baby's wails inspire the opening of umbrellas to protect from tears, are recognizable and human. Descriptions of Miriam's bounty ("She made a spicy bread, studded with little peppercorns and basil, and a sweet bread with ginger. She made a light, white loaf with dill, and a crusty brown one with sunflower seeds and honey") add to the feeling of warmth and plenty that abound in these pages. Romantic and readable, this pretty pick is a stand-out also because of its natural depiction of a bi-racial family in the context of a story that any child can enjoy. What a treat. (4 and up)
Also of interest:More fun with baked goods.
THE BLUEBERRY PIE ELF by Jane Thayer, illustrated by Seymour Fleischman (Purple House Press)
It is so delicious when a vintage children's book is properly reprinted. First published in 1959, we are allowed to revisit the magical story of an invisible elf who savors a bite of a family's blueberry pie, but has no way to ask for seconds. Hoping beyond hope that they will be encouraged to bake another one, he tries helping around the house, to no avail. When the family sets out less desirable cherry and apple pies, the poor elf can barely contain his disappointment. But with a little help from the tracks he leaves from his tiny elfin shoes, after tasting lesser pies, he realizes what all good readers know: writing can make all the difference. The elf is gracious through all of his frustrations, and if you have a taste for a story is sweet and straightforward, this is a little slice of heaven. (4 and up)
THE BAKE SHOP GHOST by Jacqueline Ogburn, illustrated by Marjorie A. Priceman (Houghton Mifflin)
Cora Lee Merriweather bakes such delicious pies and cakes, her bake shop customers are willing to forgive the fact that every bit of sweetness seems to go into her work. When mean Madame Merriweather finally gives up the ghost, that's all she's willing to give up. As a prankish poltergeist, she successfully drives away anyone who seeks to inhabit her former kitchen, but when former cruise ship pastry chef Annie Washington rents the storefront, it is going to take more than a little flying flour to drive her out. When Annie finally asks what she can do for Cora Lee to settle her spirit, she says, "Make me a cake so rich and so sweet, it will fill me up and bring tears to my eyes. A cake like the one I might have baked, but no one ever made for me." Will Annie spend the rest of her life trying to bake this magical cake, or will she find the bittersweet ingredient that will free them both? Superb storytelling and ebullient illustrations are a recipe for read-aloud in this perfectly delicious ghost story about empathy and cooperation. (7 and up)
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