cover image Blaze and the Castle Cake for Bertha Daye

Blaze and the Castle Cake for Bertha Daye

Claude Ponti, trans. from the French by Alyson Waters and Margot Kerlidou. Elsewhere, $20 (48p) ISBN 978-1-953861-18-4

Ponti (My Valley) once again unleashes his extravagant, surrealistic imagination and love for oversize formats (this one measures 15 inches tall) in a picture book about preparing for the ultimate birthday party. At the behest of masked leader Blaze, an enormous community of yellow chicklets create an “irrisistablicious” castle birthday cake—both habitable and edible—to honor their BFF Bertha Daye. Though Blaze’s management techniques seem comically limited to watching and pointing, Ponti fills every inch of the pages with antics, creating a visual impact that’s like a mash-up of Minions, Miyazaki, and Where’s Waldo? As the chicklets spend 10 days prepping, they pen and mail invitations, extract riches from a Chocolate Mine, and gather other improbable ingredients. The party itself is positively eye-popping, with attendees who include a plethora of beloved, generation-spanning figures from children’s literature and popular culture: Betty Boop and the cast of In the Night Kitchen boogie with Maggie Simpson and Super Mario (readers may have to do a little hunting to find the guest of honor). Like all birthday parties, the overall experience is a little overwhelming, but there’s no doubt that the proceedings are animated by a generous and genial creative spirit. Ages 5–9. (May)