The topic and approach of Fannie in the Kitchen is best described by its subtitle: The Whole Story from Soup to Nuts of How Fannie Farmer Invented Recipes with Precise Measurements. Deborah Hopkinson's story-telling style is amusing, full of timeless child rationale, and Carpenter's illustrations are charming and clever. A perfect pair to introduce us to one of the legendary cooks in history and her unofficial apprentice, an adventurous girl named Marcia.
Young Marcia Shaw loves being her mother's helper, but with a new baby on the way Mama also needs a cook. Enter a young woman who is coming to live with the family: Fannie Farmer yes, that Fannie Farmer. Afraid of losing her mother's affections and being relegated to a lesser role, Marcia hopes Fannie is a culinary failure. Ah, well, life is full of disappointment. Naturally, Fannie can cook like an angel. Marcia tries to pout, but finds herself quickly drawn into Fannie's kitchen as her assistant. After a few disasters which Fannie overcomes with patience Marcia learns the importance of precise measurements, careful attention to detail and a passion for food. In the meantime, Fannie Farmer realizes that she has a great deal of knowledge in her head, and it wouldn't hurt to write it down and share it. A cookbook. What a great idea.
Blue ribbons to Hopkinson for giving the picture book genre a new, fresh story line with characters full of personality, while introducing young ones to an icon in American history. Even today, many of our kitchen shelves house Fannie Farmer's original recipes. What a terrific idea to share with kids a fun, realistic story about a kitchen role model who wasn't just a Sara Lee or Aunt Jemima. Fannie Farmer was real. However, be prepared when Hopkinson skillfully describes Fannie's mouthwatering biscuits and fluffy pancakes. Your little one will want to drag a stepstool up to the counter and start mixing, stirring, folding and flipping.
Fannie in the Kitchen is delectable and nicely served by the illustrations. A single scene, for example, will contain drawings of Marcia and Fannie in a setting of catalogue-worthy trunks, shoes, dress forms and bureaus. Best of all are the extras Carpenter sneaks in here and there, like Marcia's reflection (looking petulant) peering back from within several items glasses, a carafe and a cream pitcher. The style works beautifully and lends the book a curious combination of freshness and classical texture that is irresistible.