cover image Mr. Emerson's Cook

Mr. Emerson's Cook

Judith Byron Schachner. Dutton Books, $15.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-525-45884-5

Schachner (Willy and May) creates a vivid introduction to the venerable New England philosopher through the eyes of Annie Burns, the Irish immigrant girl who comes to cook for him and his family. Upon her arrival, Annie confesses, ""I've led many a cow to the barn, but never a philosopher to the dinner table,"" but she has yet to discover just how daunting her task is. Try as she might, as Annie writes to her mother, ""When offered a warm bowl of soup, he chooses the warm colors of the sunset every time."" But when her mother replies with a cookbook Annie wrote as a child, filled with recipes for mud pies and moon cakes, the cook's imagination soars. The next morning, her Sunrise Pie, ""filled with all the colors of the morning sky,"" wins Mr. Emerson over--he takes three helpings. Loose sketchbook-like drawings with watercolor wash capture the details of the early-19th-century setting, spiced with comic touches; in the Sunrise Pie scene, Emerson stands on a chair holding his slice, while his wife, children, Annie and a parrot perched on his arm look on with delight. An afterword providing additional background about Emerson, Thoreau and Annie Burns (Schachner's own great-grandmother) tops off this meaty course, one part humor and one part history. Ages 6-9. (Sept.)