Thursday, June 5, 2014

Pancakes-Paris, by Claire Huchet Bishop

In this short illustrated book, we find ourselves in post-war Paris.  Ten-year-old Charles lives with his mother and five-year-old sister, Zézette.  Mardi-Gras is approaching, but nothing is like "before," a time that Zézette cannot even remember when there was enough food, and soap, matches, oils, and hundreds of small necessities were abundant.  Above all, Charles misses crèpes, their annual tradition.

One day, he helps two lost American soldiers find their way.  Because his mother taught him to refuse money as payment for a kindness, the soldiers offer him a box of American pancake mix.  Charles examines the red box with the kind-looking lady privately and is excited to discover that it contains ingredients for fat American-style pancakes!  But the instructions on the box are in English.  Charles will have to figure out how to prepare them if he's going to surprise his mother and sister with Mardi-Gras pancakes.

This is a quick read, but the book does a very good job of conveying just how much culture and standard of living was lost in Paris after World War II, as well as how much responsibility children had to shoulder.  Since this book was published just two years after the end of the war, the author couldn't possibly have known how much better things would eventually get.  Both she and the illustrator, however, would surely have understood the war's impact- the author was born in France and the widely-traveled illustrator was born in Belgium.

Next up on the docket for me is another book by this author, "The Man Who Lost His Head."  Although not a Newbery book, it's illustrated by Robert McCloskey!

No comments:

Post a Comment