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 Still, I did manage to order a used book online, a WITHDRAWN copy from the suddenly deprived Sno-Isle Regional Library in Washington.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.

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