cover image Marcel the Pastry Chef

Marcel the Pastry Chef

Marianna Mayer. Bantam Books for Young Readers, $14.95 (1pp) ISBN 978-0-553-05192-6

While Marcel the hippo toils as the palace dishwasher, he dreams of baking pastries and practices his culinary skills in the royal kitchen after everyone has gone to sleep. Usually careful to eat the evidence, Marcel accidentally leaves a stray cream puff in the kitchen to be discovered--and devoured--by the restless and hungry king. A mistaken-identity plot twist ensues, and the king's greedy chef seems destined to garner praise and riches for Marcel's hidden talents. The hippo saves the day and reveals his baking abilities by creating a fabulous, pink 17-layer wedding cake for the princess bride, and the impersonating pastry chef gets his just deserts. Mayer's ( The Unicorn and the Lake ; The Little Jewel Box ) text avoids the slapstick potential of its plot situations and instead becomes a warm, amusing tale of humility and selflessness. McDermott's ( Arrow to the Sun ; Anansi the Spider ) distinctively detailed drawings (beads of sweat form on Marcel's brow as ``he baked like he'd never baked before'') depict a captivating cast of pleasantly plump characters. A tasty read. Ages 4-8. (May)