Friday, August 30, 2013

Raspberries! by Jay O'Callahan (illustrated by Will Moses)

Author: Jay O'Callahan
Illustrator: Will Moses
Publisher: Artana
Publication Date: August 2003
View on Amazon
Source: my local library

This gorgeously illustrated, folk-art inspired children's book reminds me of that improv game "Fortunately/Unfortunately." Two players take turns narrating a story, with one person setting up situations and the other being the bearer of relentlessly bad news ("unfortunately...") while the first player keeps trying to steer the action back on to a happier course ("fortunately..."). Here's the plot of the book, in the style of the improv game:

Simon is a wonderful baker who owns a shop and is kind to the poor.

Unfortunately, his partners steal all his money and he's forced to close down.

Fortunately, he moves to a new town and becomes a chicken farmer instead, selling eggs to the locals.

Unfortunately, a lightning storm burns down his barn and kills all his chickens.

Fortunately, a former client of his bake shop finds him and gives him raspberries to plant which turn out to be magically delicious.

Unfortunately, none of the locals want to buy raspberries from the egg man.

Fortunately, the local baker tries them and stays up all night with Simon making raspberry tarts, which are both delicious and popular, causing people to shout out "Raspberries!!!" when they eat them.

Unfortunately, they are SO popular that the townspeople demand more of them, enough to feed everyone at the town's birthday celebration, Big Day. The baker is sure he can't fulfill the order and will be ruined.

Fortunately Simon works day and night picking raspberries and baking tarts. Hooray! The day is saved! Everyone loves the raspberries and Simon has a new job at the bake shop!

Unfortunately the chickens are still all dead.

I loved this book. I thought it was delightful and sweet without being saccharine. It reminded me of a cross between The Banana Police and those colonial Americana folk art paintings that so often get turned into jigsaw puzzles. And the audiobook narration by the author was very nice and added to the feeling of being told a tall tale (I kept expecting the author to say things like, "Well, I reckon...").

My three-year-old daughter Magda, on the other hand, liked the book very much but she thought it was odd that "everyone seemed to get over the dead chickens pretty fast." She wondered if everyone realized that all the chickens died and was anyone going to be sad about that? She felt the chickens should have their own book where we find out if any of them secretly survived and then moved to a new town where people cared more about chickens.

Just when I think I couldn't love that kid any more than I already do, moments like that come along. Awwwwesome.


The Banana Police
In Lucia's Neighborhood
Mister Dash and the Cupcake Calamity

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