Pancakes for Supper
By Anne Isaacs, illustrated by Mark Teague
Scholastic Press; $15.99
40 pp.; ISBN: 0439644836
Review by Amy Brozio-Andrews
With cleverness and courage, the young heroine of Anne Isaacs' new picture book Pancakes for Supper takes on a forest full of animals when an unexpected leap lands her in the middle of the woods.
All dressed in her fancy best for the family's wagon-trip to Whisker Creek, Toby goes flying high into the air when the wagon hits a bump in the road. Fortunately, her fall is cushioned by a snow drift; unfortunately, she finds herself alone in the woods, face-to-face with a hungry wolf, the first in a string of famished wild animals who'd love to eat up a little girl. Appealing to each animal's vanity, Toby barters with them one by one, giving up her lined coat, beautiful dress, warm hat and mittens, and so on, to avoid being eaten.
When the animals, each thinking he's the most stylish and most important, come upon each other further along in the woods, their furious bickering soon escalates into a mad dash around a tree, producing surprising results. Toby escapes to find her parents and the three enjoy stacks of pancakes for supper with hot, fresh maple syrup.
Some parents may get that déjà vu feeling when reading the book-- and yes, Pancakes for Supper draws heavily on the plot of the classic children's story by Helen Bannerman, Little Black Sambo. In her version though, Anne Isaacs (author of the Caldecott Honor Book Swamp Angel) reframes the story in a New England setting with characters, descriptions, and wild animals native to the region. Vividly descriptive and just slightly exaggerated, Pancakes for Supper is a worthy addition to the library of American tall tales in the vein of Paul Bunyan and New York City's firefighter Mose Humphreys.
The writing is great, true old-fashioned storytelling. The animals' rhyming speech softens the severity of their "going to eat you up" threats. Each of Toby's interactions with the animals is sprinkled with repetitive phrases that will make it easy for older kids to join in the storytelling fun.
Mark Teague, the well-known illustrator of other picture books like How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight?, has created bright and lively full-page oil paint illustrations that complement the tone and style of Isaac's text perfectly. Toby's an all-American girl with a very expressive face, almost doll-like with her blonde locks and blue eyes. His depictions of the hungry animals maintains an innocent feel -- even though every animal, from the cougar to the bear to the porcupine to the skunk, says he's going to eat her up, Teague's art keeps the story of Toby's outsmarting the animals from feeling too threatening to young readers.
As an added treat, the recipe for Toby's Animal Pancakes is included on the back cover of the book, complete with tips for using fruit pieces for maximum animal-like decoration of your pancakes -- julienne apples double as porcupine quills, for example. So while you might not be able to have your cake and eat it too, you can have your pancakes.
The IP Bookshelf
The IP Bookshelf
Red, Green and Yellowing
The IP Bookshelf
All original content © 2002 - 2013 Imperfect Parent®. Imperfect Parent and Mominatrix are registered trademarks.
The views, opinions and information expressed in articles and blog posts published on imperfectparent.com and all subdomains are those of the authors alone. They do not represent the views or opinions of The Imperfect Parent or its staff, nor do they represent the views or opinions of any entity of, or affiliated with, Imperfect Parent. The Imperfect Parent is designed for entertainment purposes only and is not meant to be a substitute for medical, health, legal, or financial advice from a professional.
Reproduction of material from any of Imperfect Parent's pages without written permission is strictly prohibited.