Wednesday, March 07, 2012

The Search for Delicious, by Natalie Babbit

One month ago today we were moved out of our home and into a temporary home due to an overcooked chicken. As we were gathering up a few items to take with us during this unknown-time of displacement, I snatched a couple of titles off my bookshelf to help tide me over. One of the titles I grabbed was The Search for Delicious, by Natalie Babbit. (By the way, my copy of the book displays the cover art you see here. I can't say I'm very fond of the new cover art displayed on the Amazon.)

I had picked up this book on a trip up to Powells, most likely for my birthday. I just hadn't gotten around to reading it. I had no idea what it was about. I selected it because I had enjoyed Tuck Everlasting so very much. (Linked to my review.) Not being familiar with anything else that Babbitt had written, I thought I'd give this one ago. Simply put: I was delighted from the first page!

"There was a time once when the earth was still very young, a time some call the oldest days. This was long before there were any people about to dig parts of it up and cut parts of it off. People came along much later, building their towns and castles (which nearly always fell down after awhile) and plaguing each other with quarrels and supper parties. The creatures who lived on the earth in that early time stayed each in his own place and kept it beautiful. There were dwarfs in the mountains, woldwellers in the forests, mermaids in the lakes, and, of course, winds in the air." (The Search for the Delicious, Prologue, page 1)

I just had a feeling this book was going to be good and I was going to love it!

As the story opens we are introduced to DeCree, the prime minister, who is putting together a new dictionary for the kingdom.

"It was like this," said the Prime Minster, climbing onto a stool a his desk. "I went down, you see, to show the King how far I've gotten on my dictionary. He was pleased with the first part. He liked 'Affectionate is your dog' and 'Annoying is a loose boot in a muddy place' and so on, and he smiled at 'Bulky is a big bad of boxes.' As a matter of fact, there was no trouble with any of the A's or B's and the C's were fine too, especially, 'Calamitous is saying no to the King.' But then we got to 'Delicious is fried fish' and he said no, I'd have to change that. He doesn't care for fried fish." (Chapter 1, page 14)

DeCree is worried that hunting down the definition of the word "delicious" is going to cause a civil war because no one in the kingdom can seem to agree on what delicious exactly is. Some say apples, some say nuts, and so on and so forth. The prime minister ends up sending his Special Assistant, Gaylen, out into the kingdom to take a poll. Whatever food item receives the most votes will end up being defined as 'delicious.'

The story then introduces a villan, Hemlock, who does indeed want to destroy the kingdom by starting a civil war so that he can claim the throne for himself. We dive deeper into a story of a long forgotten mermaid who has lost her rock doll and a mysterious whistle/key which will help her to find it again. We meet dwarves and angry farmers and minstrels from far away lands. Gaylen is working hard to try to take the King ordered poll, but he meets with trickery and chaos which is created by Hemlock. Being a nice and pleasing fairy tale, all ends well and everyone agrees upon the definition of delicious.

If there is a special message inside of this book, I could not discern what it was. To me it was an entertaining story and a nice diversion. Apparently this book was listed as the 1969 New York Times Book Review Notable Children's Book of the Year. I thought the book humorous and spell-binding. I was completely captivated by this rather quick read. The chapters themselves are very short making this an easy book to read aloud to a younger audience. I happened to read this one on my own time and found it incredibly enjoyable. I give it two hearty thumbs up on being an engaging and fun read.

(P.S. I did a brief search online to discover if there was a deeper meaning I was supposed to have drawn from the story and I did not discover anything suggesting that there was. Most people just seem to chalk this one up as a well-crafted tale and enjoyed it just as much as I did. If you know more about this book, please do share your thoughts in the comments!)


Annette Whipple said...

Oh, this sounds delightful!!!

Stephanie said...

This sounds very fun! I'm making a note to check this one out. : )

Cassandra said...

Sounds like a really fun story!

Bluerose said...

I've learned lately that my library has a problem losing older books. :P After your review of Tuck Everlasting, I saw online that my library had this book. When I went to check it out, it wasn't there. Apparently, another lost book. I do really want to read this one, though.

BerlinerinPoet said...

Hooray for no hidden agenda! haha!

I liked this book too, and even though I knew who wrote Tuck Everlasting I didn't realize it was the same person who wrote them both. Odd revelation.

I don't like Amazon's cover art EITHER! Ours is slightly similar to yours, but perhaps even a little more juvenile looking. Very good story though.

Amy @ Hope Is the Word said...

I didn't LOVE Tuck Everlasting, maybe because I was too old when I read it and thought it sort of odd. I'm willing to give NB another chance, though--you make this one sound wonderful!

Sky said...

I think we'd like this one. Thanks for the review!

bekahcubed said...

Sounds like fun. Since my library has a copy, I'll be adding it to my TBR list--although I'm sure I'll be searching my hardest for a hidden meaning now that you've challenged me thus!

Heather VanTimmeren said...

Thanks for this review. I picked up Tuck Everlasting at Goodwill (35 cents - score!), and they often have other titles by Natalie Babbit. I'll keep an eye out for this one too, now, and I agree with you completely about the old vs. new cover!

Stephanie Kay said...

Sometimes it's nice to read a story at face value. No underlying social commentary or agenda. :)

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