Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Children's Book Review: 'Apple Cake: A Recipe for Love' by Julie Paschkis

Apple Cake: A Recipe for Love by Julie Paschkis
Harcourt Children's Books, 2012

"Beautiful, kind, brilliant Ida...always kept her nose in a book." So begins Apple Cake: A Recipe for Love by Julie Paschkis. Alfonso goes to great lengths to capture Ida's attention, offering her flowers, serenading her with a guitar, and finally, resorting to baking her a cake.

The illustrations tell the story with just a few words to fill in the details. Alfonso goes to the ends of the earth to gather apples, eggs, salt, flour, and mixes them together with three wishes: "one bitter, and two sweet." The delicious aroma of the cake baking is what finally captures Ida's attention, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Julie Paschkis' illustrations incorporate folklore motifs to create an elegant storybook effect. The characters are small against the backdrop of the wide world, emphasizing the lengths to which Alfonso is willing to go to win Ida's affection. The book ends with a real recipe for Apple Cake from Paschkis' great-grandmother Lily.

The first graders that I read this story to were enchanted by the adventures of Alfonso and the whimsy of the illustrations. They commented on how Alfonso plucked an egg from a bird's nest, distilled salt from sea water, and baked his cake with the help of a fire-breathing dragon. While children are drawn in by the story's humor, adults will be enthralled by its elegant simplicity and the heart-warming message.

Julie Paschkis has illustrated many award-winning books. At her home in Seattle, Washington, Julie loves to make things from scratch: paintings, book illustration, fabric designs, and cake. Visit her at juliepaschkis.com.

Renée Vaillancourt McGrath has worked at Montana Public Radio as a program host since 2002. Her background is in librarianship and she currently works as a freelance editor, blogger, and website developer. Check out more of her book reviews at reneesreads.com.

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