Bake Sale by Saran Varon is a quirky little confection from the talented lady who brought us the beautifully understated graphic novel, Robot Dreams. It is a treat to look at, and it has recipes from the story collected at the end, for any aspiring bakers out there.
Bake Sale is every bit as visually beautiful as Varon’s previous graphic novel, but I confess, it’s not as satisfying when it comes to the narrative. I really wanted to love this book (I mean come on, look at that cover! A-dorable). While I can say I love the soft simplicity of the illustrations, the storyline left me a little baffled. It’s never a good sign when it’s not easy to describe exactly what the book is about. Part of the problem for me here is I do not think that the concept is something that kids can connect to. They will see the cover and think, “I want to read this,” but then I’m afraid the story will leave some readers disappointed.
Cupcake enjoys his life working in his small bakery, hanging out with his band mates, and spending time with his best friend Eggplant. He starts to slip into a baking slump, so Eggplant shares that he is planning a trip to Turkey and he promises that if Cupcake comes along he can introduce his friend to Turkish Delight (Cupcake’s baking idol). This prompts Cupcake to do everything he can to raise money for the trip, but Cupcake never gets to go because he ends up giving up his earnings to fund Eggplant’s trip when he loses his job. It feels like an odd and somewhat confusing combination of topics for a ten-year-old reader, right? The ending is very open, and I think that’s another thing that kids will find disappointing. I like an open ending. I find they are often the most realistic and rich endings in fiction, but this ending felt like an abrupt cut off, rather than a satisfying stopping point. The thematic threads related to following one’s passions, being selfless in friendship, and never giving up, are just not explored or developed enough to make this book completely successful.
Cute? Certainly. I bought it for the library because of its sheer cuteness. (Wait until you see the endpapers – maybe the most delicious I have ever seen!) I’m just worried that the reading experience for most kids will be a let down, the way some pretty cupcakes look much better than they taste, which can be really upsetting. I speak from experience. So I’ll let you know the kid-appeal verdict soon.
Bake Sale by Sarah Varon is published by First Second.