Book: How to Make a Cherry Pie and See the U.S.A
Author: Marjorie Priceman
Age Range: 4-8
Marjorie Priceman's How to Make a Cherry Pie and See the U.S.A is a fun romp of a picture book that mixes fact and whimsy in just the right proportions. The premise is that a young girl wants to make a cherry pie. However, when the ingredients and implements required aren't readily available, the narrator takes the girl and her dog on a trip across the country to find the necessary raw materials (mining coal to make steel for the pie pan, picking cotton for the pot holders, etc.). In addition to basic information about where things like cotton and coal come from, and the fact that glass is made of sand, the author slips in other regional tidbits. So you get page spreads like this:
"If the boat docks in Louisiana at lunchtime, eat a bowl of gumbo. Then go to a cotton farm and pick and armful of cotton for your pot holders.
Catch an express bus to New Mexico. If the bus stops at the northwest corner of the state, take the opportunity to be four places at one (the corresponding illustration shows a map of the four states intersecting)."
I enjoyed the lightly humorous tone of the book, especially this passage:
"Make your way to New Hampshire for granite. New Hampshire can usually be found between Maine and Vermont. Granite can usually be found on the sides of steep mountains. Rappel down the side of a mountain and chisel a chunk of granite for your pastry slab."
Don't you love that? New Hampshire can usually be found... And this one:
"Then chill out in Alaska -- just because it's there. After you've seen the scenery, hurry home."
Anyway, you get the idea. The text is entertaining and filled with interesting facts. Priceman's gouache on hot-pressed watercolor paper illustrations add tons of other tidbits. Each page spread is filled with details about the state being visited, from a tiny sketch of the Alamo in Texas and an oil platform out in the Gulf to cacti in Arizona and mansions in Louisiana. Even the colors and textures used on each page reflect the mood of the state in question -- piney, greens for Washington State, flat browns for Texas, and dramatic blues and whites for Alaska. This attention to detail will please adults reading with their kids, and keep the book interesting.
In short, I much enjoyed How to Make a Cherry Pie and See the U.S.A. It is pure fun. I'm clearly going to have to go back and look for the author's first book of this set: How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World. I hope that there are more books forthcoming. Author/illustrator Marjorie Priceman is a two-time Caldecott Honor winner, and it shows. Although this book has a couple of references to the 4th of July, I think that any book about pie is a good fit for Thanksgiving, too. Enjoy!
© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.