Tuesday, July 17, 2007


GINGER BEAR by Mini Grey (Knopf)

"...the cookie-bear was golden-colored and smelled lovely, and Horace wanted to take a bite, but-- 'No Horace," said Horace's Mum, 'it is too hot. You must wait for it to cool down.' An hour later, Horace remembered the cooled gingerbread bear and was about to take a bite, but-- ' No, Horace,' said Horace's Mum, 'you are just about to have dinner. You will spoil your appetite.' Before bedtime, Horace thought of the golden cookie bear and he was just gazing at it, but-- 'No, Horace,' said Horace's Mum, 'you have just cleaned your teeth.' Horace put the bear in a little tin and put it on his pillow."

These narrow escapes set the stage for Ginger Bear's awakening and a night of galavanting in the kitchen, creating a delectable circus of cousins, whose show comes to a crumbly end by the family pet ("Bongo the Dog liked cookies. But not in a way that is necessarily good for the cookies"). Where in the world can a cookie be safe? Though this story has no shortage of sugar icing and sprinkles, it is far from saccharine; fans of Leo Lionni's classic SWIMMY will recognize the high drama and mortality rate that motivates the creative problem-solving of the protagonist. Wry storytelling leads us to an ending is as satisfying as a whole plateful of pastry, but most delicious are the illustrations, with absolutely vibrant watercolors, acrylics and collage, visually kinetic without feeling cluttered, elements combining to make a world as solid and opaque and bright and real and dynamic as any child's imagination. The double-page spread of a cookie-like Guernica is suitably stirring ("no cookies were harmed in the making of this book," the author consoles on the copyright page), and how she could make a cookie with two eyes, a nose and no mouth at all so darn expressive is a mystery to me. I wonder if Mini Grey fretted about how to top the toy story that was TRACTION MAN IS HERE, well, she can sleep like a baby knowing with this latest title she is undeniably the Queen Empress of Anthropomorphism. There is something fearless about this book as there is something fearless about Ginger Bear, unshakable in her own faith that she can create a happy ending. Make sure you have plenty of cookie dough on hand to follow this reading...or heavy brown cardboard in case children prefer to cut out Ginger Bear creations that won't crumble. Mini Grey knows how to write books kids will not only like, but love, and this latest is as necessary in your picture-book pantry as salt and sugar is to the kitchen. (4 and up)

Also of interest:
Still hungry for more reading?
THE GINGERBREAD GIRL by Lisa Campbell Ernst (Dutton) Why should boys have all the fun? In this entertaining parody of the GINGERBREAD BOY, his smarter sister gives the classic ending a licorice twist. Add Jan Brett's THE GINGERBREAD BABY, and it's a family affair; visit the author's website for a printable board game! (5 and up)

THE GINGERBREAD RABBIT by Randall Jarrell, illustrated by Garth Williams (Dutton) I am concerned that you might not know this oldie but great-ie, a charming collaboration of a legendary poet/author and illustrator! Lonely for her daughter while she is at school (know how that goes, pre-school moms?), a doting mother makes a gingerbread cookie in the shape of a rabbit as a surprise for her little girl when she comes home, but alas, the cookie creation makes a getaway into the world that is a little wider than expected. Will the fox nab him, or will a real family of rabbits hop to his rescue? In this book, the good intentions are really good and the bad intentions are really bad, and the chases are squeal-worthy. With all the old-fashioned flavor of Howard Garis' UNCLE WIGGLY'S STORYBOOK and the warmth of a pre-heated oven, this is a perfect chapter book read-aloud for the very young. (4 and up)

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Anonymous said...

Great titles! Now in the mood for gingerbread.

Unknown said...

Snow Dude! He's a gingerbread boy made of snow - great expressions, and so much fun to read aloud.

Also, The Runaway Dinner, which reads like Tom Waits. Really.


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