If you don't already have a preschool or school age child, you may not know just how enthralling the story of the Gingerbread Man is to little kids. I think they love this story because it satisfies many of their most basic instincts, drives and interests. There is food, specifically cookies with candy on them. There is a little (cookie) boy behaving badly and being downright sassy. And there is justice and vindication. Finally, a cookie that comes to life, who wouldn't love that?
Despite the fact that almost every preschooler or kindergartener has had this story read to her or him in school, not too many authors have attempted their own retelling of the classic story, which continues to surprise me. However, after reading Catch that Cookie! by Hallie Durand, illustrated by David Small, I understand why this may be. While it's hard to retell the original tale and bring something new and interesting to the table, it's even harder to take the original story and run with it (pun intended) successfully.
I am happy to say that in Catch that Cookie! Durand and Small are very successful at taking this classic story and running with it, adding a wonderful layer to an familiar story with a setting that will resonate with little listeners! Above all else, I think that Durand's story succeeds because, as her author blurb notes, she has first-hand experience with the gingerbread phenomena and was inspired by her "own son's hard-won belief in magic after his gingerbread cookie scavenger hunt at school." Setting Catch that Cookie! in a school is exactly what makes Durand's story immediately embraceable and also new and exciting. David Small's illustrations keep perfect pace with the story and are packed with details that kids will find familiar and enjoy seeking out.
The scavenger hunt in Catch that Cookie! is fun to follow and the clues are clever but not impossible, which I can attest to having read it out loud in the library to several classes who were all able to keep up. Catch that Cookie! begins in school with Marshall. It's December and his class had heard "stories about runaway gingerbread men all week long. Marshall didn't believe a word of it." Marshall's skepticism will resonate with kids and it's is put to the test when, after making up a big batch dough, rolling, cutting and decorating with "a silver-ball belt and six eyes," (Marshall really liked raisins) Mrs. Gray and her class open the oven to find it empty! Now comes the real fun that readers can participate in along with Marshall - the scavenger hunt to find the runaway cookies! Clues are left, written in handwriting that Marshall determines is NOT Mrs. Gray's, leading the children from one hiding spot to the next with lots of brow furrowing and deep thinking on Marshall's part. This pays off when he discovers the (very clever and perfect) place the cookies have come to rest. And, as with all superior picture books, there is a twist at the end of Catch that Cookie! that will make parents and kids smile - and a little hungry...
My favorite edition of The Gingerbread Man, retold by Jim Ayelsworth and illustrated by the marvelous Barbara McClintock
A great standard by Paul Galdone
Jan Brett's take on the story with excellent illustrations
A few other fun versions of the story...
Source: Review Copy