by Gene Zion
pictures by Margaret Bloy Graham
I adore the Harry the Dirty Dog books. Have since I was a kid. And who doesn't love Be Nice To Spiders. And Benji? Cute little scamp. But have you ever feasted your eyes on this darling book? I hunted for over a year before finally snagging this one. And let me just tell you, it was worth the wait.
There was once a poor pastry cook named Tom
who worked in the Royal Kitchen of the King.
No one in the Court knew what a fine pastry cook he was
because he was never allowed to bake anything.
Tom was the ninth assistant to the Chief Pastry Cook
and was just permitted to wash the bowls and spoons.
The only one who knew how well he could bake was Tina.
So begins this sweet tale of friendship, a fat queen, fondant, and a black cat. (This book is pre-political correctness, when the word fat could be used in a childrens' book.)
One day Tom reads a Royal Proclamation, proclaiming the imminent retirement of the Chief Pastry Cook . . . which can only mean one thing in story book land. A bake off. To determine who shall become the new Chief Pastry Cook, of course.
Tom sets right to work, sifting, measuring, pouring, and mixing. So fast does he move, he does not notice when his elbow knocks from the shelf a music box, which promptly plops into the bowl. By the dawn of the following morning, Tom's cake stands ready . . .
A work of art from top too bottom.
But just as the king and queen are about to enter the main hall filled with cakes and bakers from every corner of the Kingdom . . .
the Queen Mouse breaks off and crumbles to pieces. But not to worry. Tina, who has been sleeping in Tom's pocket, deftly skips to the top of the cake and takes the empty throne. But poor Tina can't fool everyone.
The palace cat is shooed from the hall, and disaster is averted. For now. The king and queen take the sugar mouse cake to the Royal Chamber and retire for the night.
Tom, in a frightful state over the safety of dear Tina, climbs to the window, and peers through the window.
And spies . . .
Will Tina become a savory morsel for the Palace Cat? Does Tom receive the tasty post as Chief Pastry Cook? Well, to find out, you'll have to get your hands on a copy.
And dear, me. Whatever becomes of that lost music box?
I do wonder.