Wednesday, November 04, 2009

An Apple Pie for Dinner

This month, for Barrie Summy's Book Review Club, I'm writing about An Apple Pie for Dinner retold by Susan Vanhecke and illustrated by Carol Baicker-McKee.

This is my first "sponsored" review, by which I mean that the publisher sent me a copy of the book to review. At first I was excited! Then I was worried. What if I didn't like the book? Worse, what if my kids didn't like it?

They're sort of "off" new things, lately. And they each definitely have favorite books they like to read. Over. And over. And over. We have three bookcases, each with 3-4 shelves, stuffed full of children's picture books and board books. Additional children's books are stashed on bedside tables, busy bags in the car, and beside nearly every chair in the house. (Adult books are largely confined to the floor-to-ceiling bookcases in the basement and one small bookcase in Paul's and my bedroom.) We are readers. But we are very opinionated readers.

So I introduced An Apple Pie for Dinner with some trepidation.

Our first time through the new book, Ada (age 2-1/2) and Ellie (age 6) listened quietly then requested Where the Wild Things Are.

The second day, I included An Apple Pie for Dinner in my stack of suggested books for naptime (Ada) and bedtime (Ellie). They both picked it first. And we've read it at least once a day all week.

This is a rousing endorsement, indeed! But what do they actually like about the book? Is it the illustrations? The story itself? The idea of the quest? I asked Ellie, who walked away shaking her head.

I asked Ada, who also looked at me like I was crazy. "Apple pie. For dinner."

Oh, that.

So let me tell you why I like the book, instead.

The illustrations caught me first. "This is a fabulous graphics program," I thought. "I had no idea you could make this sort of thing with computers. I wonder how it's done. It looks so real! But no way did the illustrator create textured diorama/mural art pieces for every single page." Oh, but she did. From the endpages:

Carol Baiker-McKee created three-dimensional, mixed-media bas-reliefs to illustrate this book. Carol explains: "Mixed media is just a fancy way of saying that I created the artwork from lots of things, including fabric scraps sewn into clothing, embroidery, baked polymer clay, pipe cleaners, pieces of wood, and interesting things rescued from the trash and bought at rummage sales."

The art makes the book worthwhile, all by itself.

But the story is great, too. It's based on an old English folktale (The Apple Dumpling) which might be why the plot seemed slightly familiar to me. But I'd never heard the story told quite this way.

Granny Smith wanted to make apple pie, and she had everything she needed, except apples. She did, however, have plums. So she packed a basket full of plums and set off to find someone who wanted plums and had apples. Instead, she found a woman who wanted plums but had feathers. And so it went until Granny finally found a man with an apple orchard who just happened to need what she had in her basket at the time.

I don't want to spoil the ending, but the story winds up with every character in the story eating apple pie for dinner at old Granny Smith's house.

Click on over to the author's website to see some of the artwork and decide if a journey through the book isn't worthwhile, even knowing that there's a Happily Ever After ending.

I'm still having fun after twice daily readings for a week. Our current challenge is to find all the hidden ladybugs. Because a good children's book entertains the reader as well as the listener and this one does that.

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Barrie said...

As always, you do a marvelous review!

Sarahlynn said...

Thanks. :) I'm surprised to learn that I really enjoy writing reviews. I guess years of belonging to book clubs built a few skills in addition to being a fun way to catch up with friends and drink coffee/wine!

kaye said...

Granny Smith--made an apple pie?
great word play. It looks like a great picture book. Nice review.

If you want to read my review of the Blue Star by Tony Earley it’s here.

Sarah Laurence said...

Ada’s review cracked me up and yours was very thorough. Fine review!

Anonymous said...

I can see why the kids love the title - that's what caught my attention, too. Plus the cover. Now I'm thinking I need this program so I can finish my picture book. Have decided this is just one picture book I'd like to have for my own library and not something I want to pursue as a career.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Looks perfect for my three year old grandson.

Keri Mikulski said...

Too cute! Thanks for the review. :)

Alyssa Goodnight said...

I love books that are a twist on an old favorite. And I LOVE mixed media illustrations--I just pore over them.

And I agree with your kids--the idea of apple pie for dinner is enough to make me reread a book! :)

susan vanhecke said...

Many thanks, Sarahlynn for your – and Ellie and Ada's –wonderfully candid review! So glad you all enjoyed the book.

I totally agree with you about Carol's art, it's amazing! It took her more than a year to complete. Every spread required a new Granny, plus all the rest. That's a lot of fabric scraps and clay!

Here's a link to a post on Carol's fun blog that shows the Apple Pie art in progress:

Sarahlynn said...

Kaye, I know, I love the name. :) I'll be 'round to read all the reviews this weekend!

Sarah, Ada is a hoot. Love her sense of humor. And she's at that fabulous stage where she's starting to invent her own "jokes."

Kathy, and computer program that could create art like that would be amazing, wouldn't it?!

Pattinase, just the right age, and season. :)

Thanks, Keri!

Alyssa, me too!

Sarahlynn said...

Susan thank you for stopping by!

A year to create all the artwork! That's impressive, and at the same time, it shouldn't be surprising. I think lots of us underestimate how much work it takes to create a children's picture book - both the writing and the illustrating.

Thanks for the wonderful book (we read it again today, and are having apple pie AFTER dinner tomorrow!) and for the link to Carol's blog. :)