cover image Happy Birthday, Alice Babette

Happy Birthday, Alice Babette

Monica Kulling, illus. by Qin Leng. Groundwood (PGW, dist.), $16.95 (32p) ISBN 978-1-55498-820-4

Having profiled several inventors in her Great Ideas series, Kulling opts for an imagined story drawn from Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas’s life in Paris. It’s Alice’s birthday, but Gertrude seems entirely unaware of it: “The pair ate breakfast in silence.” Alice’s day improves as she explores Paris on her own, riding a carousel, catching a puppet show, and even foiling a jewelry store robbery. Gertrude, meanwhile, is busy assembling a dinner of Alice’s favorite dishes, which goes terribly awry as the culinarily untalented writer keeps being distracted by the poem she’s working on. Leng’s (A Walk on the Shoreline) airy ink drawings bring just the right chic Parisian energy to this odd-couple story. As for Kulling, her drolly understated story often feels like one big wink to in-the-know readers: Gertrude is introduced as Alice’s “friend,” yet there they are dancing together on the back cover. And while Alice’s brownies are a hit at a thrown-together birthday party, Kulling omits the detail that cannabis was an ingredient in Toklas’s famous recipe. Ages 4–8. Author’s agency: Red Fox Literary. Illustrator’s agency: Shannon Associates. (Apr.)