Bake Sale by Sara Varon
First Second Books, 2011; Hardcover, 158 pages (including recipes)
Calling all Foodies, your graphic novel is here! Many of the book recs put the ages 9-12, but lovers of the cupcake trend and bakers in general will own Sara Varon’s Bake Sale regardless of age.
Things appear to be going well for Cupcake who owns a bakery, plays in a band, has a best friend Eggplant and a friendly customer-base. However, Cupcake is in a bit of a baking rut. He tries a few things that do not go as planned, but Eggplant has an idea when he discovers Cupcake’s idol is Turkish Delight. Eggplant not only knows her, but is going to see her when he goes to visit his family. Eggplant invites him along and Cupcake must raise money for his ticket. Bake Sales with creatively themed desserts are a great solution, but when he has to quit the band to host them, Cupcake has to review his priorities and deal with the outcome. When Eggplant loses his job, Cupcake again has to decide what he is willing to do.
In Bake Sale, life isn’t all pink and pretty frosting with a cherry on top. Sometimes a blueberry will have to do for a while. Some things give way to better and Cupcake takes some rewarding chances; and some less rewarding chances—for him. In the end, who can predict the future, but hey, it will likely turn out just fine! Okay, maybe the book is for those suffering in this Recession, too. Bake Sale serves up a warm message about the value of having and being a great friend, good neighbors, and comfort food.
Aside from the cannibalistic tendencies of the anthropomorphized food characters, Bake Sale is a sweet little book with illustrated recipes at the back. The drawings are highly accessible and warm in their soft hues. I was a bit distracted by all the labeling, especially where it seemed unnecessary, if not completely overdone. I can read the arrows showing that the page in that cookbook is being flipped (17), do I need “flip!” as well? And I’m pretty sure a 9 year-old knows what a faucet is and buckets (37), among many other things. As the illustrated recipes appear, the ‘excessive’ labeling makes a bit more sense. Cupcake’s story is also an illustrated recipe, even down to the way ingredients are substituted based on availability, necessity, or individualist flair.
Some may find the ending a bit anticlimactic, perhaps too open-ended, or not even that rewarding, but there is a hopefulness that works with, rather than subverts, the sadder realities written into the story. The ending is perfectly suited to the story, even as the story perfectly suits current cultural trends and economics.