________________ CM . . . . Volume XIII Number 6 . . . . November 10, 2006


Fairy Tale Feasts: A Literary Cookbook. 

Jane Yolen, reteller. Recipes by Heidi E.Y. Stemple. Illustrated by Philippe Béha.
Vancouver, BC: Tradewind Books, 2006.
197 pp., cloth, $34.95.
ISBN 1-896580-84-X. 

Subject Headings:
Cookery-Juvenile literature.
Fairy tales.

Kindergarten-grade 5 / Ages 5-10.

Review by Valerie Nielsen. 

**** /4 

What do a pancake, a turnip, a handful of beans and a pot of porridge have in common? Answer: they each figure in a well-loved folk story. In Fairy Tale Feasts: A Literary Cookbook, the award-winning and prolific author Jane Yolen has teamed up with her daughter, Heidi E.Y. Stemple, to produce a collection of re-told folktales and recipes for the food featured in each story.   

    From the earliest days of stories, when hunters came home from the hunt to tell of their exploits around the campfire while gnawing on a leg of beast, to the era of kings in castles listening to the storyteller at the royal dinner feast, to the time of TV dinners when whole families gathered to eat and watch movies together, stories and eating have been close companions.   

     So writes Jane Yolen in her introduction to this entertaining volume. Just as storytellers change and adapt their stories according to the needs of the audience, so cooks change their recipes to adapt to season, weather, altitudes, what is available in the kitchen and to the needs or tastes of their guests. Thus is the connection between food and stories made and the basis for Yolen's and Stemple's collaboration spelled out. 

     Like a recipe book, Fairy Tale Feasts: A Literary Cookbook is divided into five parts: Breakfasts, Lunches, Soups, Dinners and Desserts. Twenty folktales, including old favourites such as "The Runaway Pancake," "Little Red Riding Hood," "Stone Soup," "Jack and the Beanstalk," and "Cinderella" all make their appearance, simply and charmingly told by Yolen, whose graceful prose seems exactly right for each tale.  

     The last story in the book ,"Seven Hills of Sweet," is an original by Yolen and features a "noddy old king" who loved chocolate above all else.  The accompanying recipe is for (what else!) Chocolate Mousse. 

     The mother daughter team has had fun matching up recipes with stories. The dishes are cleverly connected to the tales. Ingredients and methods are clearly set out, and, although parental supervision is necessary for safety (particularly with chopping and peeling procedures), the majority of preparatory steps can be done by young chefs. 

     Each tale is short enough to leave time for both reading and a cooking. Yolen has produced notes set in the margins of the stories to inform young readers where the story has come from and how it has traveled. There is also marginalia on each recipe page giving interesting background and facts about the foods being prepared. In fact, there is a tremendous amount of information on food and folktales to be found in the pages of Fairy Tale Feasts: A Literary Cookbook.  Reading these snippets of information is likely to slow down the production of any given dish, but the ensuing discussion would be well worth the time. It is not a book to be hurried through.   

     Philippe Béha is an internationally acclaimed Quebec artist who has illustrated over a hundred children's books. His bold, splashy, brightly-coloured watercolours enliven the pages of this volume. His paintings have a quirky humour which complements the tone and the content of this feast of fairy tales perfectly. 

     At $34.95, Fairy Tale Feasts: A Literary Cookbook is an expensive school library purchase; however, this attractive book would make a great gift for parents or grandparents to share with five to nine year-olds.

Highly Recommended. 

A retired teacher-librarian, Valerie Nielsen lives in Winnipeg, MB. 

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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