Saturday, May 31, 2014


By Elisha Cooper

(Greenwillow Books, 2002)

Since my last blog post featured a picture book about pizza, it seemed entirely logical to follow that with ICE CREAM. Perfect meal, right?

I am already a big fan of writer/illustrator Elisha Cooper. His descriptive phrasing in books like Building and Beach consistently amazes me. The watercolor/pencil drawings, often several smaller images filling a page, also dazzle. I am pleased to say that Ice Cream is up to the Cooper standards.

As soon as I read the print on the first spread—“It starts with a cow. It starts with a lot of cows.”—I knew I had to purchase my own copy of the book. And that, unfortunately, took some doing. It saddens me that a book about ice cream by a talent creator like Cooper published by an imprint of HarperCollins could go out of print. We can still buy Bread and Jam for Frances (1964) with little difficulty, but no Ice Cream? Something is amiss. Still, I did manage to order a used book online, a WITHDRAWN copy from the suddenly deprived Sno-Isle Regional Library in Washington. Your loss, my gain.

Cooper takes us on the full ice cream making journey, from cow in the field to carton in the grocery store. There are lots of interesting facts that Cooper shares.

·         When the farmer milks the cows, “[e]ach cow gives about five gallons of milk.”

·         After milking, he removes the suction teat cups and “dabs disinfectant on each teat.”

·         At the factory, the ice cream machine “is a steel, piston-pumping, cream-dripping, gadget-whirring, water-spraying, pipe-rattling, chocolate-leaking animal.” (Chocolate leaking?! I’m thinking about an opportunity! Or a tragic loss.)

It’s the extra details, observations that are technically not part of the ice cream process, that add authenticity to Cooper’s text.

·         At the farm, the truck driver finishes pumping the milk into the truck, “opens the milk house, and three cats rush in to lap up spilled milk. They have white whiskers and look happy until the farm dog chases them off.”

·         At the factory, the silos that store the milk “are so big, the worker could swim laps across them.”

·         “The taster is so important to the ice cream factory that it insures her tongue.”

As with other Cooper books, the words are playfully arranged on the page when an artful arrangement complements the message. For instance, when referring to stirring up the ingredients, the words swirl. The text twists and turns on the page in which pint cartons are filled on a conveyor belt. Some may find the layout gimmicky, but kids (and I) find this touch makes for a livelier read.

Not that Ice Cream needs any extras. The tasty topic, mixed with Cooper’s descriptive writing and soft-swirl illustrations, combine to create one delectable book.

Monday, May 19, 2014


Written by Adam Rubin

Illustrated by Daniel Salmieri

(Dial Books for Young Readers, 2013)

Haven’t blogged in a while so why not kick things off again with a Pizza Party? I mean, really, who doesn’t love a pizza party? How many of us have been suckered into a day of moving sofas and tables with the promise of pizza as the reward? We could buy our own, making the phone call from our own very stationary sofa and having it delivered to our door, but that “free” pizza is quite the enticement.

It seems there is a certain raccoon that is as obsessed with that cheesy pie as I am. But, of course, pizza is not for raccoons. No. These critters are supposed to subsist on food remnants from trashed cobs of corn, discarded fruitcake and maybe, on a good night, a pizza crust punctured by human teeth marks. Such is the life of a wild thing.

Still, this little raccoon wishes for more. He stares longingly through the windows of pizzerias until he is unceremoniously shooed away by a guy with a broom. (Yeah, that’s happened to mean on occasion, too.)

The cheeky narrator gives the tormented raccoon an idea: Throw your own SECRET pizza party. Think about it—no battles with brooms and, gosh golly, things are always more fun when they are a secret. What a great idea!

But there are a few kinks to work out. Delivery guy must not discover where raccoon lives. Raccoon must be in disguise when walking in the pizzeria. And, being as raccoons don’t have wallets—or money, for that matter—there needs to be a quick getaway with the goods. (Is this theft, you may wonder as a conscientious reader wishing to instill proper values on a young audience? P-lease. Raccoon is a wild animal. This is part of all that survival of the fittest stuff. It is a slight tweak to those not-so-exciting food chain diagrams from science class. Get over it. Or read Goodnight Moon for the umpteenth time.)

Raccoon overcomes every obstacle. Pizza! At last! Still, it does not seem right. Raccoon’s pizza party is a solitary experience. The masked has one more pizza-driven adventure left. After all, whether you are hauling duct-taped recliner chairs or dodging dusty brooms, pizza tastes even better when you put in the extra effort.

This is the type of amusing picture book that can be enjoyed over and over again at bedtime. I have gone through this book many times and Raccoon becomes more endearing with each reading/viewing. As a creative team, Adam Rubin and Daniel Salmieri seem to be the perfect pairing (like (veggie) pepperoni and gobs of mozzarella). This is the follow-up to Dragons Love Tacos, their ode to another ideal snack food. (Yes, I still have to blog that one, but according to my cravings, pizza trumps tacos.)

I can’t wait to see what they cook up next!