With Like Carrot Juice on a Cupcake, Julie Sternberg once again demonstrates her gifts in capturing (expertly and succinctly) the emotional lives of children in her wonderful verse novels, with Matthew Cordell perfectly illustrating these moments. We first met Eleanor Kane in Like Pickle Juice on a Cookie when she was struggling with grief over the loss of her beloved Bibi, her longtime babysitter, who moved south to take care of an ailing parent. Eleanor's August is bad, very bad, "as bad as pickle juice on a cookie." As she works through her emotions, Eleanor also learns to accept and maybe even let herself like her new babysitter. Eleanor can be a particular child, but she is always genuine in her emotions and expression of them and this resonates throughout her stories.
In Like Bug Juice on a Burger Eleanor is headed for summer camp and completely out of her comfort zone - again. The small moments and ways in which Eleanor, often with the help of thoughtful and caring adults in her life, work through her difficulties are memorable and even moving. Like Carrot Juice on a Cupcake gets the action started immediately as Eleanor tells us, "I did a mean thing. / A very mean thing. / To a new girl AND / to my best friend. / I HATE that I did it. / But I did."Eleanor's life is almost perfect before new girl Ainsley arrives in her class. Pearl, Eleanor's best friend who sometimes talks like a poet, spends every Monday and Wednesday afternoon at her house where they bake and try to train Eleanor's dog, Antoine. But all that changes when Mrs. Quaid asks Pearl to help Ainsley catch up with the rest of the class by studying together on Monday and Wednesday afternoons. Eleanor is pretty cool about this at first. She misses her friend and feels a little jealous at times, but does her best in what quickly becomes a third wheel situation.
When Pearl volunteers shy Eleanor to be in the fourth grade play, things go from bad to worse. Not only will she have to sing in front of people, but she will have to play Mama Bunny to classmate Nicholas and even HUG him! To top it off, Antoine continues to chew on things and pee where he shouldn't and he gets shipped off to puppy training camp. Pearl is utterly alone and uncomfortable and embarrassed by the teasing her classmates are doling out. Not even Nicholas's very good, usually entertaining drawings can cheer her up.
The mean thing that Eleanor does is a mistake we've all made, and probably at the same young age, and she regrets it the minute she does it. How she copes with her jumble of emotions, untangling them and fixing her mistakes and making apologies is the icing on the cupcake of this book. As always, I am deeply impressed with Sternberg's ability to tell Eleanor's story in verse, creating such a complete world that I always feel like I have read a novel by the time I reach the end. And, as always, Matthew Cordell's excellent illustrations complete Eleanor's story brilliantly. I don't know how many more gross things Julie Sternberg can think up to put on tasty things, but I would be thrilled with another book about Eleanor, her likes and dislikes and the ups and downs of everyday life that she meets with honesty and courage.
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Source: Review Copy