CM . . .
. Volume XXIII Number . . . .March 17, 2017
It Must Be the Spaghetti! is a humorous, playful tale by author and illustrator Caroline Stellings whose past honours include the Hamilton Arts Council Literary Award for Fiction and the Foreword Book of the Year for Juvenile Fiction. In It Must Be the Spaghetti!, readers are introduced to the charming adventures of Eddie and Steve, two Schipperke dogs whose characters have been modelled after Stellings’ own dogs of the same breed. Eddie, who adores spaghetti, makes routine visits to a local Italian eatery where he enjoys frequent bowls of pasta and the company of his brother Steve. Unlike Eddie, who mainly just enjoys eating spaghetti, Steve holds a passion for the creative arts, including playing instruments, dancing, and singing operatic classics. One night while visiting the local restaurant, Steve and Eddie notice a sign outside a nearby theatre announcing open auditions for the Pirates of Penzance. After a brief practice and some spontaneous improvisation, the brothers perform their makeshift audition pieces in front of the director. While Eddie’s performance is quickly dismissed, Steve’s mesmerizing style pleases the director, and Steve is offered an opportunity to sing in an upcoming performance. While rehearsals were productive and allowed for convenient trips to the next door Italian eatery, the night before Steve’s debut performance suddenly turns gloomy as he experiences a bout of stage fright and cannot bring himself to face the audience the following day. Upon realizing that he simply cannot perform, Steve asks Eddie to take his place and sing. Since Eddie had heard Steve’s ongoing practices, he knew the part by heart and, despite some costume malfunctions and initial disapproval from the director, Eddie makes a stellar debut appearance in front of a crowd of adoring fans. In the end, Eddie’s unexpected talent is credited to the spaghetti, and readers are treated to a surprise, bonus addition of a step by step recipe of the infamous sauce that helped transform Eddie into an overnight sensation.
Stellings’ illustrations, created in soft, pastel tones, are a highlight of the book. Particularly clever is the manner in which Steve and Eddie are given human personalities who enjoy basking in human pastimes and cuisine. It Must Be the Spaghetti! contains a large amount of text which, at times, can be distracting from the overall flow of the story. While some double page spreads offer a nice balance between illustrative content and text, other pages contain large amounts of blank white space which cause the eye to view the text and image as disconnected entities rather than complementary components. Although the delightful, comical nature of the storyline would undoubtedly appeal to younger audiences, both the choice of vocabulary and the presentation of text via large paragraphs, require the comprehension level of a more advanced reader. Similarly, in order to fully appreciate the references to famous poetry, operatic scores and plays mentioned in the story, readers would require a significant amount of background knowledge prior to interacting with the content. For younger audiences, this book would be best presented as a read-aloud where children can join in the fun of reciting the repetitive phrase of “It Must Be the Spaghetti!”.
Christina Quintiliani is an Ontario Certified Teacher and Ph.D. Candidate at the Faculty of Education, Brock University, St. Catharines, ON., where she is researching children’s literature.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.