Ever since I read Bread and Jam for Frances (you can read my review/tribute here) as a small child, I have been drawn to picture books with food themes - or characters. In light of this, I have no idea how I missed Terry Border's first book last year, Peanut Butter and Cupcake but I did the chance to read Happy Birthday, Cupcake, which combines one of my favorite picture book themes, food, with another of my favorites - birthdays!
There are a lot of things I love about Happy Birthday, Cupcake, but I have to start by pointing out two notable accomplishments on Border's part. First, he has written a great picture book about a birthday. I have spent 20+ years seeking out quality picture books with birthday themes and they are (very) few and far between. Probably because it is hard to write a great story about someone having a birthday. Beyond the uniqueness and the humor found in Border's illustrations, the story of Cupcake planning her party is solid. Cupcake and Muffin try to plan the perfect party that will make everyone happy as they walk Cupcake's dog, a mini-eclair. Cupcake suggests a beach party, but Muffin points out the fact that it's hot at the beach and some friends (Chocolate Bar) might get drippy. A makeover party sounds like a great idea - and makes for a fantastic two page spread - but is ditched when Muffin, notes that Hamburger might not like getting frosted and sprinkled. A live band and a rousing game of musical chairs is ruled out when Muffin alerts Cupcake to the dangers of being sat on and squished in the heat of the game.
Another superb and not-so-common thing in picture books is humor. Terry Border is a very funny guy with a great sense of humor that he is able to translate to the page. Using food, tiny objects, crisp backgrounds and wire limbs for anthropomorphization in Happy Birthday, Cupcake, Border creates engaging, hilarious scene after scene, with much of the humor coming from word play. For the musical chairs party, Border conjures up a band named "The Musical Fruit" who happen to consist of cans of beans that play horns. When Soup loses his lunch on the boat party scenario, his alphabet noodles spell out and apology on the deck. Every page offers something beyond the text that is a treat to pore over.
The end to Happy Birthday, Cupcake, which brings a sweet resolution to the party problem, is also perfectly festive. Happy Birthday, Cupcake is definitely a book I would give as a birthday gift and one that I will be pulling off the shelf again and again to read out loud.
Terry Border's first book,
Peanut Butter & Cupcake
Another fantastically fun thing that Border cooked up: Your Favorite Children's Books Guest Starring . . . Peanut Butter!
A few more instances of Border's genius:
And my favorite - book and visual - from Wiry Limbs, Paper Backs: A Room with a View.
Finally, while making muffins for my family I thought I'd try a little food scene of my own. I thought it would be easy but it's NOT! I guess I didn't come up with a good enough narrative or visual joke. The best I could do was Muffin meeting the Robots and being given a lollipop...
Source: Review Copy