cover image The Fairytale Cake

The Fairytale Cake

Mark Sperring, , illus. by Jonathan Langley. . Scholastic/Chicken House, $15.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-439-68329-6

Who needs pony rides or a clown at a birthday party when the cake is custom-baked and delivered by celebrities from the fairy tale and nursery rhyme world? Preschoolers will have a field day spotting all the characters as the cake makes it way from the bakery (where the Big Bad Wolf, sporting a granny dress, obligingly stokes the oven fire with his huffing and puffing), and is escorted by an ever-growing entourage (including Mary and her Little Lamb) up a comically challenging hill, and past Humpty Dumpty perched precariously on a bridge. They finally arrive at the home of a very lucky boy. Langley manages his large, fancifully wardrobed cast with aplomb. The winsome, mostly full-bleed watercolors brim with fun details (note Jack and Jill's bandaged heads) and running jokes (the Knave of Hearts's tarts are purloined one by one), but the pictures always maintain a narrative drive. Sperring (Find-A-Saurus ) contributes snippets of pert narration, often just a phrase per spread ("We make a cake,/ we bake a cake,/ a very, very special cake,/ and send it on its way"), that add up to just three complete sentences. The idea of the fairy world being essentially a cozy neighborhood is winning, and the sense that this camaraderie is in service of a child's happy birthday makes the conceit all the sweeter. Ages 3-5. (Aug.)