Stir a bowl of gingerbread,
Smooth and spicy brown.
Roll it with a rolling pin,
Up and up and down.
With a cookie cutter,
Make some little men.
Put them in the oven,
Till half past ten.
There’s nothing quite like the warmth of an oven set at 350 degrees and the heavenly smell of gingerbread, baking.
The meticulous artist Jan Brett retells the famous tale in Gingerbread Baby (1999), a small square book with thick cardboard pages and a marathon-racing baked good who’s escaped from the oven. Matti, the little boy baker, opened the oven door too soon!
“Catch me if you can,” yells the Gingerbread Baby, as he hops and skips his way through the village. Can Matti catch the Gingerbread Baby? One thing’s for sure: reading this book (filed with a red dot), will make you hungry.
How about a Gingerbread Doghouse, made in cahoots with Clifford The Big Red Dog? Cooking With Clifford (by Norman Bridwell, 1999), offers multiple dough recipes. There’s no cookie cutouts included, but you can use your own or just use a knife.
When you’ve gorged on cookies, try the Cool Red Wagglers, made of hot water and gelatin, which can then be popped into a cold fridge. They will be ready just as you’re finishing your nice hot noodle soup for lunch.
Cooking With Clifford is filed with a blue dot.
First, though, consider a quick read through Safety In The Kitchen (with pictures by Sue Wilkinson, 1988, blue dot). The McHare family bounce through some of the basics. Gingerbread cookies are too hot to eat first thing out of the oven, and need to sit for a few minutes. A burnt tongue is just too awful. This book, too, is filed with a blue dot.
Clifford’s gingerbread recipe doesn’t include nutmeg, but adding a bit less than a quarter teaspoon can only add to the flavour.
The Nutmeg Princess, written by Richardo Keens-Douglas and illustrated by Annouchka Galouchko, is a wonderful story with truly stunning artwork.
Petite Mama is four feet tall and lives on the Isle of Spice in the Caribbean, growing fruit and nutmeg trees. Many think she is a witch — and she might be, at that. Only she can see the Nutmeg Princess, who appears when the spice is ripe for picking.
One day young Aglo and his friend Petal decide they want to see the princess, also. But of the two, only Aglo can spy the beautiful princess, although Petal believes him regardless of her own blindness. Until, that is, the townspeople hear that the princess has diamonds in her hair, and their greed overcomes their disbelief.
This is the story of how the princess outsmarts the greedy.
Next, pair your nutmeg and gingerbread with a fruit. Once Upon A Golden Apple stars dad, who just refuses to tell a story properly.
His confusion is mirrored as the picnic the family prepares for seems to be going to the dogs. Or to one dog, anyway…
There’s also a Gingerbread Man, but he’s all wrong. When kissed, a frog does not turn into a Gingerbread Man. (Oh father; humph.)
Your young’un will get more out of this fairy tale mash-up if they’ve sung ‘Rock-a-Bye-Baby’ and they’re already familiar with Jack and the Beanstalk, the Littles (Chicken and Red Riding), and that last trip to the market (to buy a fat pig!).
Once Upon A Golden Apple is written by Jean Little and Maggie De Vries, illustrated by Phoebe Gilman, and is filed with a blue dot.
The little baker in your home might well grow into a teenager with a flair for mixing flour and eggs. Budding pastry chefs will enjoy Recipe For Disaster (by Maureen Fergus, 2009, and filed in Young Adult), the story of Francie, who bakes coconut drop cookies to die for. She’s also a reader of romance novels, a snark-head, and a lover of anything that will lead to a fabulous career as a celebrity baker (preferably with a monster TV show).
She’s got a best friend, a crush on a guy who’s falling for her frenemy, school problems and lots and lots of talent in the kitchen.
Many thanks to Tina-Louise Rossit, who donated Recipe For Disaster to the library so that we can all fold a bit of romance, humour and nutmeg into the flour. And for those looking for proper recipes, check out our cookbook section (in non-fiction, filed under number 641). Martha Stewart’s Cookies (2008) includes a gingerbread recipe.
– Dec. 28, 2012, Eleanor Brown