Friday, December 10, 2010

17. Wonder-full. Two Delights.

Mud Pies and Other Recipes, by Marjorie Winslow, with illustrations by Erik Begvad, The New York Review Children's Collection, $14.95, ages 4-8, 56 pages. Two little hands sift, sort and pat a buffet of make-believe dishes that any doll would love in this charming little cookbook, originally published in 1961 and now reissued. Narrated as if by a girl who is perfectly sure of herself, the book happily skips along from one adorable recipe to the next, rounding out with my favorite, Dollypops. "Pick a dandelion from the lawn carefully, so as not to disturb the fluff," Winslow instructs. "Hand it to your doll and tell her to lick." Organized by course, the cookbook goes from appetizers to menu lists, and also includes baking tips. In the foreword, you'll find advice about utensils and pans (empty egg cartons make handy muffin tins), clean-up (a puddle makes a nice sink) and cooking times: "Doll cookery is not a very exacting art," Winslow explains -- as you imagine a twinkle in her eye. "The time it takes to cook a casserole depends upon how long your dolls are able to sit at a table without falling over. And if a recipe calls for a cupful of something, you can use a measuring cup or a teacup or a buttercup."

Other recipes include, mud puddle soup, corn silk spaghetti, chalk shake and gravel casserole (For the latter, fill a pie tin with gravel, brush on melted ice cube, sprinkle on crushed dry leaves then bake in the sun until bumpy on top.) Every page includes whimsical pen-and-ink drawings of girls and boys at play, and the ingredients they come up with. If Santa asks you for a suggestion for a little girl's stocking, grab his lapels and show him this. Then listen for the giggles on Christmas morning. 

Guyku: A Year of Haiku for Boys, written by Bob Raczka and illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds, Houghton Mifflin, $14.99, ages 4-6, 48 pages.  How do you put in words what makes a boy a boy and not lose his attention? Take every marvelous little moment that captures who he is and put it into the thrifty form of Haiku, three unrhymed lines of 5, 7 and 5 syllables, which from this book forward is known as the poetic form of "Guyko," guy + haiku. In this delightful book, Raczka shares 24 quintessential moments of being a boy as Reynolds illustrates each vignette with humor, gusto and a touch of poignancy. From spring through winter, boys are on the go, making fun out of whatever they find. Some get into mischief, lose themselves in play or wonder about the world around them.  In one Guyko, a boy lolls about on his belly on a swing, then suddenly looks up, startled by what he no longer hears: "Hey, who turned off all / the crickets? I'm not ready / for summer to end." In another, a boy twiddles his fingers with a mischievous grin as a big, lofty tree awaits his ascent: "Pine tree invites me / to climb him up to the sky / How can I refuse?" And my favorite, a magical moment when a boy by himself believes anything is possible. He stands before a campfire, his shirt loose, and arcs his stick across the night sky, leaving a trail of glowing ashes. "With the ember end / of my long marshmallow stick / I draw on the dark."

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