Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Reading Notes - Eddie's Kitchen (and How to Make Good Things to Eat)

One of the things I like most about being regular library visitors is the sense of discovery, of hidden treasures lying in wait just on the next shelf. All three of my girls love the ritual of choosing new books; from a young age, I've simply left it to them to select their titles, setting only a numerical limit (more for the sake of my poor groaning back than anything else). Sometimes the things they find are delightful surprises - like one of the 2 year old's current selections, Sarah Garland's Eddie's Kitchen and How to Make Good Things to Eat.

This 2007 storybook is apparently the second in a series featuring main protagonist Eddie (a boy of 7 or 8, or thereabouts), his little sister Lily (a preschooler), and their Mum. C, my 2 year old, was attracted to it by the warm and inviting picture on the cover, the fat ginger cat, and the fact that Eddie is in the act of cracking an egg into a mixing bowl (a skill that C has recently mastered and is thrilled to practice each week on our baking day).

There's such a lot we all like about this story. The gentle, soft-edged pencil illustrations, of course - C has a definite preference for softness and watery colours in book art. The characters of Eddie and Lily are nicely fleshed out; C finds Lily's antics particularly amusing. The sequencing of the plot is a familiar and tried-and-true one for picture books (Event - Minor Crisis - Resolution - Humour), and Garland carries it off with a practised flourish.

What I like most of all, though, and what's attracted my two older kids to sneaking reads of this book (and reading aloud to the toddler), is the way that Garland creates a natural, human and extremely enticing portrait of a family making food together. The discovery that they need to prepare food for Grandpa's party, forgotten about but due to start in a matter of hours, promotes a flurry of bread-making, pasta-sauce-creation, apple-stuffing, orange-cake-baking, dip-mixing and salad-preparing.

Mum, while the overseer and director of the works, doesn't do all or even most of the actual food handling - Eddie, and playful Lily, have hands in every stage of the process. Indeed, they are integral to its success, finding apples (under the apple tree), eggs (in the henhouse and the doll's pram), mixing cake and kneading bread and creating pasta sauce. They are, in age-appropriate ways, co-workers in the kitchen, and Mum not only lets them be so, she *needs* them to be so. This is a very enticing vision of shared household work commingled with teaching and fun and love.

My kids are particularly enchanted by the way that Mum, while obviously a bit harried by the demands of last-minute party prep, still makes time to admire a neighbour's new baby, to extract a thorn from an old lady's finger, to talk to a friend on the phone who's having a hard time. Mum comes through in the book as a very caring, very warm person, and her hospitality is of the very best kind - not fussy, not fancy, not concerned with appearances, but embracing with affection and good hearty food and community.

All in all, we really love this picture book, and I'm on the hunt for its prequel, Eddie's Garden and How to Make Things Grow.

This post is part of NaBloPoMo. 2 down, 28 to go!

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