The Search for the Delicious, by Natalie Babbitt, is a book that can stand to be read continually throughout your whole life. Perhaps my children will have the chance to do so as we've started them out on this story young. I only discovered this book for myself back in 2012. I fell in love with it instantly, re-reading it again in 2013. Usually a quick re-read of a book makes me feel a little bit weary of it but not so with this title! Each time I read it, I like it more. I've been biding my time waiting until I thought the kids were old enough to catch some of the humor in the book before sharing it with them. I felt like the time might be right and so we spent the last few weeks reading it.
The Search for the Delicious is a short book that tells of young Gaylen's adventures as the King's Messenger. Gaylen is sent out from the castle to poll the kingdom in order to find out how people would define the word 'delicious.' The Prime Minister has been writing a dictionary and when he presents his definition of the word the king disagrees with him and the queen disagrees with the king. No harmony can be found in the palace and so the locals must be polled. Will people say apples are the most delicious? Or corn? Wheat? Fish? Whatever item receives the most votes will be listed as the definition for the word.
This idea of polling the audience sounds good in theory but the problem is that no two people can seem to agree on what is delicious. With the help of a villain who convinces the people that the king means to cause trouble with this question, the land is filled with confusion and the threat of war looms over people's heads. There is hope of averting a war but it is going to take the help of some creatures that some believe only to be mythical: a woldweller, some dwarves, and a beautiful mermaid. As Gaylen makes his way around the countryside he is faced with a great many challenges, one of them is whether or not to believe in fairytales.
This story is pure genius. The first time I read The Search for the Delicious I didn't discern any deep meaning; it was pure entertainment and sheer delight. The second time I read it I clued into the importance of reading and understanding the purpose behind fairy tales. This time I ached only for my kids to appreciate the delicate, subtle humor of Babbitt. I'm afraid to report that she's so subtle with her humor that it went over their heads. Not that this was a loss because my kids were still left to enjoy the story for story sake which they did! (I, alone, snickered my way through beautifully crafted sentences.) In the end though, we all enjoyed it which was the point. My kids, ages 9, 7 and 5 all claimed to have enjoyed it very much. (The three year old sat silently by and grinned. But I don't think that means anything.)
It is precisely because this book is just so enjoyable that we will revisit it again in the future, many times over! I'm certainly not tired of reading it and can only still highly recommend it to you. Seek this one out! It's worth every minute of your time.