Tuesday, December 09, 2008

How Sweet It Is! Gingerbread Friends by Jan Brett

The sassy Gingerbread Baby lived in a scrumptious gingerbread house in the bedroom of a boy named Mattie.

He was happy with the toys and treats that Mattie made for him. Still something was missing

Of course, what the Gingerbread Baby wants is a friend of his own, someone who will play with him when Mattie is busy skiing with his friends or making cookies with his Grandmother in the kitchen.

So the Baby sets out in the sparkling, snowy landscape, pulled in a chair sled by an agreeable chicken to the nearby town to find a soulmate, someone who shares his, er, sweet nature and love of fun. He approaches a Gingerbread Man and Lady, a sugar cookie girl, and seven sugary white swans swimming on a marshmallow sea, singing his winsome song for each:

I'm the Gingerbread Baby, as peppy as can be.
I'll be friends with you, if you'll be friends with me.

But the confectionary acquaintances are unmoved by his plea. Downhearted, the Gingerbread Baby nips into a nearby mouse hole for a nap, but awakes to find that Mama Mouse is copping a snack from of one of his marshmallow pom poms. Jumping into his sled and rousing up his rooster, Baby heads for home, only to find that a fox has plans to make a full meal out of the rest of him.

Dodging back into Mattie's house just in the nick of time, the Gingerbread Boy is intrigued by a trail of cupcakes all the way up the ladder into the loft. And as he follows the tasty trail upstairs, a fold-out page reveals a surprise party hosted by Mattie and filled with future friends;

We're the gingerbread friends, playful as can be.
We'll be friends with you, if you'll be friends with me...and me...and me!
Jan Brett's just published Gingerbread Friends is a non-Christmasy but festive holiday treat, illustrated lavishly in her familiar style. As is her wont, Brett provides lively pictorial borders around each page which hint at the ending of the story--this time a traditional recipe for gingerbread men as demonstrated by sous chef Mattie.

And for a more Christmas-specific title, Jan Brett has just released the tenth anniversary edition of her popular The Night Before Christmas: Tenth Anniversary Edition Although reverently faithful to the old poem in her elegant illustrations, Brett takes one liberty with the venerable text with her addition of two stowaway elves, whose antics outside the house add visible interest for children who follow them throughout St. Nick's sojourn.

"No creature was stirring inside," Brett explains, "but what about outside? I would have two elves from the North Pole stow away in Santa's sleigh and see what would happen." Dressed in Brett's trademark red, green, and white Scandinavian costumes, the elves peek from Santa's pack, climb upon the reindeers' backs, and have to be quickly corralled and stowed aboard as Santa prepares for lift-off at the end of his visit--all adding to the holiday fun of this beautiful book.

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